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British Attitudes to the Colonies, ca. 1820-1850 A. G. L. Shaw The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1. (Nov., 1969), pp. 71-95. Stable URL: The Journal of British Studies is currently published by The University of Chicago Press.

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British Attitudes to the Colonies, In an article in the Journal of British Studies in November 1965, Helen Taft Manning, referring particularly to the period 1830 to 1850, asked the question, "Who ran the British Empire?" She was especially concelned with the influence of the famous James Stephen, but her question raises matters of wider concern. "Patterns of historical writing are notoriously difficult to change," she wr0te.l Much of what is still being written about colonial administration in the nineteenth-century British Empire rests on the partisan and even malicious writings of critics of the Government in England in the 1830s and '40s who had never seen the colonial correspondence and were unfamiliar with existing conditions in the distant colonies. The impression conveyed in most textbooks is that the Colonial Office after 1815 was a well-established bureaucracy concerned with the policies of the mother country in the overseas possessions, and that those policies changed very slowly and only under pressure. Initially Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Charles Buller were responsible for this Colonial Office legend, but it was soon accepted by most of the people who had business to transact there. This legend is still to be found, as Mrs. Manning says, in general textbooks, among the more important of the fairly recent ones being E. L. Woodward's Age of Reform, and more surprisingly in the second volume of the Cambridge History of the British Empire. Of course, Wakefield and the so-called colonial reformers are well recognized as propagandists. While this fact does not necessarily make them disreputable, since the cause they had at heart at the time, the better government of the British Empire, was a good one, it is a little surprising that their bias has not induced a greater caution in accepting their statements. Wakefield was energetic, indefatigable in his personal agitation, prolific in his writing, and successful in winning over a number of talented and well-placed disciples, including especially Sir William Molesworth and Charles Buller. The activities of these men, however, were not always above reproach, and James Spedding's de1. Helen Taft Mannlng, "Who Ran the Britlsh Empire 1830-1850'" J B . S , V (1965), 88 On another such "pattern," cf. A G L. Shaw, Heroes aud Vdlnint zn History - Bourke and Dd~lingm Nezu South W/ales (Sydney, 1966).



scription of them, though prejudiced, is at least as worthy of attention as many of the reformers' own self-adulatory outpourings." They were, he wrote, a small compact body, with great vigour, ability and perseverance; - not restrained by any diffidence . . . not crossath of any opposing interest, and, therefore, unthe y hostile criticism . . . attacking, without remorse, checked all ersms . . . supposed to be hostile to any of their views; coo ly charging them, as if on the authority of personal knowledge, (which it is hardly credible that they can possess,) with the basest motives and the most disingenuous artifices.



Spedding continued that if the reformers' land and emigration policies were not at once put into practice, "it is much easier to believe that Mr. Wakefield overrates . . . his theory, than that all secretaries and under-secretaries are in a perpetual conspiracy to defeat his efforts for the good of mankind - a verdict partly anticipating the view of a modern commentator that "Wakefield simply did not understand the . . . theories he criticised so ~onfidently."~ Many subsequent writers might well have heeded the warning implied here about the less respectable elements in propagandist work. The relormers, though posing as experts in imperial affairs, really knew little about them, and one of their basic tenets concerning land policy was absurd, as every Australian knew perfectly well. Nevertheless, neither Wakefield's ignorance nor the initial failure of South Australia was able to diminish the fervour with which he advocated his superficially attractive but ill-founded panacea for the solution of colonial diffic~lties.~The shortcomings of the 2. James Spedding, Edinbfdrgh Review, LXXI (1840), 517-20. For the attribution of authorship of articles in the Edinhuvgh and Quarterly Rez~iews, see Walter E. Houghton (ed.), T h e Welleslej Index to Victorian Periodicals 1824-1900 (Toronto, 1966). 3. Graham Tucker, Progress and Profits in Bvitzsh Econon2ic Thought (Cambridge, 1960), pp. 184-86. James Stephen thought that Edward Gibbon Wakefield's theory was "ignorance taking the guise of philosophy." PRO, minute, 1841, CO 13/20. 4. Stephen objected to "peremptory legislation about things of their own nature flexible" and thought that "the unqualified doctrine of never giving away land" had caused "much mischief." PRO, minute, 20 Aug., 1846, CO 280J201, minute on Lord Falkland to E. G. Stanley, 21 Dec., 1841, CO 217/178. On land policy, however, the Wakefieldians had more inffuence than he. For contemporary criticisms from Australia, see General Richard Bourke to Lord Glenelg, 10 Oct., 1835, Sir George Gipps to Lord John Russell, memo. on Disposal of Lands, 19 Dec., 1840, Historical Records of Aurtvalia, first series, XVII, 156, and XXI, 133; James Macarthur, N e w South Wales: Its Present State and Future Prospects (London, 1837); N.S.W. Legislative Councii, Committee on the Crown Idand Sales Act, Report, Votes and Proceedings, 1843, 11, and Committee on Crown Land Grievances, Report, ibid., 1844, 11. An Australian would certainly have disagreed violently



theory of the sufficient price, however, are here of less significance than the reformers' assertions about the administration of the colonies, which may be summarized in the following propositions: first, that the Parliament of the United Kingdom was not interested in calonial problems; secondly, that the secretaries of state for the colonies either were incompetent or held their office for very brief periods; thirdly, that as a result the Empire was run by the permanent officials at the Colonial Office, and in particular by James Stephen." The reformers actually knew as little about the management of the Colonial Office as they did about squatting in Australia. Therefore, when in 1845 Sir Robert Peel, Lord John Russell, and the former Under-Secretary Henry Labouchere all paid handsome tributes to Stephen's talents and integrity from firsthand acquaint a n ~ e this , ~ event should have attracted more attention than the strident and quite ill-informed outpourings 04 a disgruntled clique giving vent to the "Wakefield theory of the Colonial O f f i ~ e . "For ~ more than forty years Paul Knaplund has been stressing the merits of Stephen's influence in colonial affair^,^ and few today would regard him as the ogre "in the dark recesses of the office" pictured by Buller and Wakefield.g If, thanks to his long experience and knowledge of precedents, Stephen was able to provide some continuity to policy and so to exercise some influence, one might heed firsthand testimony rather than gossip and recall W. E. Gladstono's view of Stephen's "high degree of delicacy and scrupulousness in putting forward his individual opinions," and Russell's flat assertion "that the notion generally entertained that everything is done by Mr. Stephen in the Colonial Office, is ~nfounded."'~ with Wakefield's assertion that "the prosperity of . . . Port Phill~p . . has been wholly derived froin a realisation, however defectlve, of [the reformers'] econom~cal theory." Edward Gibbon Wakefield, A Vtezu of the A f t o j Colonizatton (1849), ed. James Collier (Oxford, 1914), p. 53. Wakefield clearly understood nothing about "squatting" and very llttle about grazing Ibzd., letters Ixvi, lxiv It 1s doubtful that Viscount Howick (3rd Earl Grey) understood inuch about them either. See Durham University, memo on Disposal of Lands in New South Wales, 11 May, 1838, Grey Papers. 5 . Charles Buller, Responsible Gozernment (London, 18401, reprinted in E M Wrong, Charles Buller and Responstble Governfnent (Oxford, 1926). J. A Roebuck had sltnilarly cr~ticizedR. W. Hay, Stephen's predecessor, in Parliament, on 2 Apr., 1835. 3 Hansrt~d27: 653. 6. Ibid. 82: 859, 991, 1011 (21, 23 July, 1845). 7 . James Spedding, Edinburgh Review, LXXV (1842), 148. 8. See esp. Paul Knaplund, James Stephen and the Brztzsh Colonzal System (Madison, 1953), and "Mr. Oversecretary Stephen," J.M.H., I (1929), 40-66 9. Wakefield, Art of Colonization, p. 37; Buller, Responszble Government, ch. vi. 10. W E. Gladstone to H A. Agl~onby,18 M a r , 1846, quoted in Knaplund, "Stephen," J.M.H., I, 41, n. 4; Russell, 3 Hansald 82: 1010 (23 July, 1845).



In fact, of course, the Permanent Under-Secretary was frequently overruled. For example, he had differed from the official policy adopted in 1828 on the appropriation of Canadian custoins duties and the wisdom of life appointments of Canadian judges;ll in 1830 and 1832 he opposed the disallowance of a Canadian bill providing that a member of the Assembly accepting an office d profit under the crown should vacate his seat.12 In 1833 he was as unsuccessful in opposing E. G. Stanley's method of emancipating slaves and the provisions of the Jamaica and Barbados cmancipation acts as he was to be later concerning the franchise in St. Kitts and J a m a i c a . l H e disapproved of the Emigrant Passenger Act,14 the Australian Waste Lands Act,15 Alexander Maconochie's convict experiment on Norfolk Island,ls the part-nominated, part-elected Legislative Council in New South Wales,17 and the proposed district councils He constantly differed from his superiors 0x1 convict transportation to Australia19 and was critical, though without effect, of the policy of making the pcnal colonies pay for their police and gaol establishment^^^ and of an amendment inserted by the House of Lords in a bill on tickets-of-leave, which he described as "utterly destitute of sound principle and intelligible meaning."21 In 1840 Russell proposed, against Stephen's wishes, to allow Indian coolies to be indentured to Mauritius again, and though this policy 11. James Stephen, evidence to Select Committee on Civil Government of Canada, Report, pp. 229-30, 242, in Parliamentary Papers, 1828 (Cmd. 569), VII,




12. Stephen's reports, CO 323145, fol. 199, CO 323/50, fol. 17, quoted in Knaplund, James Stephen, pp. 267-68. 13. Stephen's reports, CO 323/50, fols. 129, 247, CO 323/49, fol. 132, CO 323156, fol. 169, quoted in ibid., pp. 107-09, 121, 132-33. Cf. W. L. Buri~, Emancipation and Apprenticeship in the British West Indies (London, 1937), p. 168. 14. Stephen's minute, 15 Apr., 1835, CO 384138, fol. 63, quoted in 0. MacDonagh, Pattern of Governl-nent Growth, 1800-1860 (London, 1861), p. 86; cf. p. 146. 15. PRO, Stephen's minutes, 22 Aug., 1846, CO 280/201; cf. CO 201/303, fol. 270, and on Land and Emigration Commissioners to Stephen, 22 July, 1842, CO 384/71. 16. PRO, Stephen's minute on Gipps to Russell, 1 May, 1841, CO 201/309, fol. 206. 17. W. P. Morrell, British Colonial Policy in the Ate 01 Peel nnd Rus.rrll (Oxford, 1930), p. 43. 18. PRO, minutes on Gipps to Stanley, 21 Aug., 1844, 31 Jan., 1845, CO 201/347 and 365. 19. PRO, minutes, 4 Jan., 1836, CO 201/246, fol. 344, 11 Oct., 1835, CO 201/248, fol. 235, 1837, CO 201/263, fol. 72. 20. PRO, minutes on Bourke to Glenelg, 8 Sep., 1837, CO 201/262, on Francis Baring to Stephen, 9 Oct., 1838, CO 201/279, fol. 257, on Gipps to Glenelg, 3 Nov., 1838, CO 201/277, on Sir Charles Trevelyan to Stephen, 23 July, 1840, CO 2801126, on Sir John Eardley-Wilmot, Governor of Van Dienlen's Land, to Stanley, 19 Nov., 15, 17 Dec., 1845, CO 280/185 and 186. 21. PRO, minute on Gipps to Glenelg, 29 Mar., 1839, CO 201/285.



was held up by opposition in the House of Commons, Russell also overruled his allegedly omnipotent adviser on the question of a school charter in New Brunswick." Even Lord Glenelg, Secretary of State from 1835 to 1839, and one d the weakest in the first half of the nineteenth century, overruled Stephen on the price of Australian land, on a proposed tax on uncultivated land in Prince Edward Island, on the question whether Great Britain should annex New Zealand, and on the reorganization of the Jamaican C~uncil.~" There is also little trace in the records at this time of Stephen's influence on Canadian policy, which seems to have been largely the work of Sir George Grey and the cabinet as a whole. While the reformers attacked the domination of Stephen, who was presumably dictating the policy which they violently criticized as illiberal, Sir Francis Bond Head, the montebank ex-Governor of Upper Canada, complained that Stephen's policy was determined by his "rank republican" principles and that, in the despatches which he wrote and Glenelg signed, he was continually "discouraging the loyal and encouraging the di~affected."~~ Such counteraccusations do not necessarily cancel each other out, for the Government's policy (whether or not Stephen dictated it) might appear in these different guises to the extreme supporters of two opposing parties. Head's eccentricity, however, makes one distrust his testimony, and the affair suggests that not for the last time Stephen was being made the butt of criticisms which their authors did not want to make against the political heads of the office. If British colonial policy was not determined by Stephen, the question arises, who determined it? The colonial reformers might assert that the successive secretaries of state held office for such 22. Minute, 11 Dec, 1841, CO 295/135, quoted in Morrell, Bftttrh Colonzcil Poltcy, p 155; I . M. Cumpston, Itzdzans 0z)ejseas t n Bjtfzsh Ter+rtolre~,1834-1854 (Oxford, 1953), p 56; mlnute, 1840, CO 188/69, quoted In Knaplund, /umec Stephen, pp. 182-83. 23. Minute on Bourke to Glenelg, 6 Sep, 1837, CO 201/262, report on Prlnce Edward Island Acts, 14 July, 1837, CO 323/52, on New Zealand, Stephen to Howick, Feb. 1845, quoted in Morrell, Brrtrsh Colonzal Polrcj, p 10411; on Jamalca, memo by Stephen, 17 Sep, 1835, CO 137/200, Glenelg to Lord Sligo, 17 Sep, 1835, CO 138/57, quoted in Burn, Enranctpatzon and Apprentzceshzp, pp. 294-95. 24 F B Head, Narratzve (London, 1839), pp 326-27 J. B. Rob~nson,Chef Just~ceof Upper Canada, In London on sick-leave In 1839, told Sir Geqrge Arthur, then Lieut Governor of Upper Canada, that Head blamed Stephen most erroneously" and said that Glenelg was "much influenced by Sir George Grey" However, Robinson later argued that w h ~ l eLord No~manbywas at the Colonla1 Offrce, since he regarded himself merely as a "locum fenens" and was for some time engaged in defending his Irish administration before a hostlle House of Lords committee, "matters rested entirely" wlth Stephen Robinson to Arthur, 4 M a r , 4 Sep., 1839, in C. R Sanderson (ed ), T h e Arthur Papers (Toronto, 1957), 11, 71, 231.



brief periods that they never had time to master the problems of the Empire (that is, to accept without question Wakefield's views about it). On the other hand, Mrs. Manning has pointed out the activities and initiatives of Russell, Stanley, and Viscount Howick ( b t e r the 3rd Earl Grey), and one should remember that short terms of office were by no means unusual in other important posts. It is true that either Lord Palmerston or Lord Aberdeen was at the Foreign Office for all but six months between January 1828 and January 1852; but in contrast, between 1830 and 1841, while there were eight colonial secretaries, there were six men successively in charge of both the Home Office and the Board of Trade. I t is rarely asserted that for this reason either William Crawford or Samuel Phillipps was the author of Russell's Prison Acts, 1836 and 1839, or that James Deacon Hume and John Maceregor improperly controlled the country's commercial policy. If cabinet ministers, however, and not civil servants, were effectively in charge of the Colonial Office, they were not dictators. They were subject to pressure from their colleagues and from other departments, such as the Treasury, Home Office, Foreign Office, and Board of Trade. They had also to consider the views d M.P.s and the various pressure groups represented in Parliament.25 The colonial reformers repeatedly asserted that Parliament was not interested in colonial affairs, but like many of their other assertions, this is not true. What validity it has rests on a singularly narrow definition of "colonial affairs." "There was not parliamentary indifference to commercial policy," wrote John S. Galbraith, in a perspicacious article in 1961, contrasting the interest on this subject with the way in which a debate on colonial pdicy would "empty the h~use";~"ut many debates on commercial policy (for example, on colonial preferential duties) were in f a d on colonial policy, as were the protracted and well-attended discussions on Canadian government. Galbraith seems, unfortunately like many other writers, to have accepted at face value the reformers' complaints. Members of Parliament were probably not much interested in colonial land policy, feeling correctly that they knew little about the subject, though it appealed to the Wakefieldians very strongly; hence there was little contention over the colonial secretary's recommendations on this and on the routine proposals for colonial governments. On 25. Arthur contended that British policy towards Canada was dictated by the pressure of "public sentiment in Great Britain." Letters, 8, 24 June, 1839, in ibid., 11, 163, 178. 26. John S. Galbraith, "Myths of the 'Little England' Era," A.H.R., LXVII (1961-621, 39.



other subjects, however, parliamentary debates were frequent and vigorous. Apart from land, was not slavery a matter which concerned the colonies? During the 1830s debates on this subject and the apprenticeship system which followed emancipation were constant. There were increasingly bitter discussions on the growing Canadian opposition to alleged British tyranny and misgovernment. Colonial trade was another major topic of interest, as imperial preferences particularly the duties on sugar, timber, and corn - and the Navigation Act came under review, while convict transportation on the one hand and the activities of missimries, the churches, and educationalists on the other were always likely to provoke heated parliamentary argument. These and other colonial affairs from time to time demanded imperial legislation and therefore parliamentary approval. Administration was often the subject of debate too - for example, when criticism was made of Lord Charles Somerset at the Cape, of Lachlan Macquarie, Sir Ralph Darling, and Sir George Arthur in Australia, of Lord Gssford, Lord Durham, and Lord Metcalfe in Canada, of Lord Torrington in Ceylon, of Lord Sliga in the West Indies, and of Sir Benjamin D'Urban and Sir Harry Smith at tho Cape. Though Stanley is often quoted as complaining that colonial affairs "rarely came on" and that when they did they were "debated before an audience which knows nothing about them and takes no interest in them," one might also cite his denial in 1837 that the "counting out" of the house at 7:30p.m. in a Canadian debate showed a lack of interest. The point was, he explained then, that as Joseph Hume had been speaking for two and a half hours, naturally members had gone to dinner, but that the house was grelatly interested. Russell took a similar view the next year when he asserted that the "very great attendance of members" showed the "very great interest taken in this subject [Canada] by this House."27Too many of the critics of colonial policy wexe so intole~ablyverbose and repetitive that it is no wonder that at times they emptied the Comn~ons;but such figures of parliamentary activity as are available, rather than suggesting a general lack of interest, bear out Mrs. Manning's comment about a "re-entry of Parliament" into colonial administration after the Napoleonic wars.28 Perhaps the colonial reformers, like the later imperialists of the Chamberlain-Milner school, were too inclined to assume that 3 Hansard 37: 111 (8 Mar., 1837), and 40: 546 (26 Jan., 1838). Helen Taft Manning, British Colonial Government dfter the American Reuoltltion (New Haven, 1933), p. 540. 27. 28.



no one was interested in the Empire who did not accept all the reformers' often far-fetched, impracticable, or ill-advised proposals.29 Granted that Hansard's Parliumentay Debates at this period are not fully comprehensive (which incidentally means that the amount of time spent on subjects said to attract little public attention might be underestimated), there are reported between the end aâ‚Ź the Napoleonic wars and 1830 five discussions on colonial establishments and expenditure, two on general colonial policy, thirteen on colonial trade, duties, and bounties, twelve on emigration, and eight on colonial missions and religious establishments. In addition, there were 113 debates on particular colonies, including twenty-six on the West Indies, and fosty-one on slavery in the colonies, making in all a total of 194. Though many of these were brief, many were not, and the record certainly does not show the complete lack d interest which is so often referred to. During the next decade (November 1830-July 1840), the arguments about slavery and Negro apprenticeship were continued in ninety debates, and there were thirty-one discussions on West Indian duties, including sugar, and forty on other West Indies concerns. In addition, there were five debates on general colonial policy, fifteen on emigration, twenty on New South Wales, twentyone on the other Australian colonies and New Zealand, seven on South Africa, twenty on a number of the other small colonies, thirteen on the minor Canadian colonies, and 129 on Upper and Lower Canada, the rebellions there and their aftermath - in all, an average of about forty a year. In the 1840s there were nine debates on general colonial establishments and policy, fifty-six on the sugar duties, eighteen on the Navigation Acts, twelve on colonial customs, twenty-four on emigration and eight on emigrant passenger ships, nine on convict transportation, four on colonial religious establishments, and t h e e on colonial mails, as well as forty-nine on the Canadian and thirty-seven on the Australian colonies, twenty-five on New Zealand, twenty on the West Indies, six on South Africa, and fifteen on minor colonies elsewhere in the world - a total of about thirty a year. These take up about 8 per cent of Hansard's cdumns, which is almost the same percentage as during the preceding decade. They were buttressed by a steady stream of parliamentary select committees which investigated colonial establishments, expenditure and revenue, convict transportation, migration, lands, colonial trade, military affairs, church establishments, missionary activities, and aboriginal affairs. In 29.

Cf. A. Gollin, Pvoconsul in Politics (London, 1964), pp. 140 ff.



addition, there were papers and correspondence on transportation, emigration, trade, expenditure, and pensions. Though these debates often involved "an undue emphasis on abstract principles"30because menlbers (like the cdonial refornlers ) did not know enough about local conditions, they were neither unpopular, as J. L. Moriscm and others have asserted, nor illattended, nor unimportant. The figures of divisions on the Reform Bill, or Irish disorder, or votes of no-confidence tempt one to regard a full attendance of the house as normal and a "thin" house as peculiar; but if the numbers voting in divisions are taken as the standard to measure the attention paid to colonial discussions, then menlbers seem to have been as interested in them as in any other issues. During the life of the Parliament elected in 1837, at a time when the colonial reformers were complaining bitterly of Parliament's indifference to the Empire, there were 649 divisions on matters unconnected with the colonies, in which, on the average, 169 members voted; there were forty-two divisions on matters of colonial concern, and in them the average number voting was 218. In the next Parliament the Government had such a large majority that in few divisions was its fate in tha balance, as had been the case with the Whigs after 1837; even so the number voting was very similar - an average of 175 members in six hundred divisions on noncolonial matters, and 207 in fifty divisions on colonial affairs. In these two Parliaments, the proportion of colonial divisions to all divisions is 7 per cent, or fairly clolse to the proportion of time spent in discussing colonial business. Neither of these sets of figures - the columns in Hansard or the divisions - is a perfect measure of parliamentary attention or concern, for many other factors affected them. Between 1838 and 1841, for example, the Whigs' colonial policy, especially in Canada and the West Indies, offered a major stick for their opponents to beat the Government with, and some of the cdonial divisions were inflated because they were crucial to the survival d the ministry; but the very fact that they were so crucial would suggest that members and party leaders regarded colonial policy as something important, not something to be ignored. In March 1838 colonial policy as a whole was made the basis for a full-blooded Tocry attack on the Govelrnmmt, and the neat year the threat from Russell and Hawick that they would resign unless Glmelg was moved from the Colonial Office (because of the need, as Russell put it, for "the 30. J. L. Morison, in Cambridge History of the Britirh Empire, I1 (Cambridge, 1940), 441.



utmost energy and activity" there) indicates both the interest of these important Whigs in the Empire and the importance they placed on the efficient and energetic conduct of imperial matters.31 Granted that Lord Melbourne himself may have been more interested in his Government's survival than in colonial administration, there were other matters, not even excluding the Corn Laws, on which he also seems to have felt no vital concern. Normally one would expeet Parliament to support the Government's cololnial policy - just as it should support its foreign policy or its Irish policy or any other, but it was by no means without influence on that policy. The fact that it rarely exerted this influence for purposes to the liking of the coloniaI reformers is not to say that its interference was negligible or always misguided. In 1838 the Hmse of Commons brought about the abolition of Negro apprenticeship in the West Indies, and the Lords precipitated the resignation of Durham as Governor-General of Canada. The next year the defeat by the House of Commons d the Whigs' proposal to suspend the Jamaican constitution caused the ministry to resign, and after it had resumed office (following Queen Victoria's dispute with Peel about her "Ladiss"), the Lords compelled it to modify furthm the more moderate proposals it then brought forward. Between 1841 and 1844 the duties on colonial sugar, timber, and corn were keenly debated, and in 1844 Peel was able to get his way on sugar only when, by threatening to resign, he forced the Commons to reverse its vote. Certainly these debates were extended by the fears of the agricultural protectionists for the position of the landed interest in England and by the views of many members about foreign slavery; nevertheless, they prop vided a searching examination of the proper principles on which colonial trade should be conducted. Clerically minded Anglican conservatives, led by members like Sir Robert Inglis, Sir John Pakington, and Gladstone, were always as concerned with the rights of the "established" church in the colonies as '~e~n.ological" conservatives were with keeping up the policy of transporting criminals. In both cases they were able, at l a s t for a time, to induce the G o v s m e n t to follow their wishes, and as late as 1851 Grey told Lord Elgin in Canada that he could nat introduce a bill 31. Russell to Lord Melbourne, 2 Feb., 1839, in Rollo Russell (ed.), Early Correspondence of Lord John Rmsell (London, 1913), 11, 244-45; Howick to Melbourne, 1839, in L. C. Sanders (ed.), Lord Melbourne's Papers (London, 1889), p . 424. Robinson thought that Glenelg seemed to "know nothing, care nothing and do nothing" about the colonies. Robinson to Arthur, 4 Mar., 1839, in Sanderson, Arthur Papers, 11, 7 2 .



dealing with the clergy reserves that session because "it was difficult for sol weak a ministry to risk antagonising the Church."32 During all this period Parliament felt as d e q l y as the Treasury or the Colonial Office about the need for economical administration, and even thmgh on several occasions it agreed tol come to the aid of colonies which were in financial difficulties, Grey told Buller in 1847 that he did not dare to ask for an extra vote for emigration.33 In short, although allowances must certainly be made for the intrusion of side issues in parliamentary debate and for the shortcomings of the figures used to indicate parliamentary interest, the overwllelming impression remains that the colonial reformers' complaints about parliamentary indifference to the Empire were thoroughly ill-founded, however often they may have been repeated since. Incidentally, both houses during this period showed in their debates far more concern about colonial than about foreign affairs, though there were no complaints about Parliament's ignorance or lack of concern for the latter. As one might expect, this interest in colonial affairs was not confined to Parliament, for even in those undenzocratic times members reflected the interests of at least the politically conscious in the community. The press did not ignore happenings in the colonies, and the provincial papers copied accounts of colonial affairs from London. By emphasizing the unusual, always a characteristic of journalism, they at least helped to keep the Empire in the public eye. As for the "learned journals," between 1824 and 1840 the FVestminster carried an average d two and a half articles a year on the colonies (even if most were hostile before Molesworth acquired it), while the Tory and strongly pro-Empire Quarterly printed two per year. There was only one a year in the Edinburgh (which managed to ignore Canada completely in the 1830s, presumably because of the Whig Government's poor record there), but a greater number appeared in the Dublin Review after its foundation in 1836, and from 1840 the Annual Register included a separate chapter on the colonies in its survey of the year's events. Books and pamphlets were also numerous. Relating to Australia, for example, where the complete list is known, nearly one hundred a year were published between 1835 and 1850,34apart from official 32. Grey to Lord Elgin, 27 Jan., 1851, quoted in Morrell, British Colonial Policy, p. 458. 33. Quoted in Helen I. Cowan, British Emigratiolz to British Novth Anzerica (Toronto, 1961), p. 107. 34. See the titles published in the United Kingdom, listed in J. A. Ferguson, Bibliography of Australia (Sydney, 1941-55), I-IV, 1784-1850.



publications, and there seems no reason ta believe that this number is peculiar to that part of the Empire. Some of the opinions expressed were hostile; for example, in 1825 in the Edinburgh J. R. McCulloch defied "anybody to point out a single benefit of any sort whatever derived from the possession of Canada," and the Westminster two years later advised the British to relinquish their supremacy there.36 But this was a minority view. Scholars, when writing in one connection, have not forgotten that it was not until 1820 that "the free trade movement as a conscious effort began,"36 but in other contexts they seem to overlook the "conscious efforts" that were made in imperial expansion and trade control in the fifty yejars that followed the publication of the Wealth of Nations and the Declaration of American Independence, when the "second British Empire" was being developed. During the Napoleonic wars the Quarterly had insisted that British "naval superiority rests mainly on colonial strength," and that it was to the colonies that "we are indebted for our commerce, our manufactures, our naval wealth, the high state of our agriculture, and the progressive cultivation of our waste land^."'^ The Government did not forget the Empire when negotiating the Treaty of Vienna, even if it restored the East Indies to the Dutch; and in the next fifteen years Tory spokesmen were always ready to stress the connection which they claimed to see between colonies, commerce, ships, seamen, wealth, revenue, prosperity, and strength. "The discouragement of colonisation is not the feeling of the great majority of Englishmen," declared Sir John Barrow in the Quarterly in 1829, replying to the ci-iticisms of the "economists" which had been expressed by its rivals. "Its expense is trifling when compared with the inestimable advantages which will one day result."38 But what was "trifling" and what were the advantages? It was perhaps too easy to beg the question by rhetoric; twenty years later Gladstone was more accurate when he wrote, "We know by tradition that Colonies are beneficial, by experience that they are ~ostly."~" What in fact was thought to be beneficial about them? First was the contribution, certainly increased by sentiment and by unthinking repetition, that they were thought to make to British 35. Edinburgh Review, XLII (1825), 291; Westminster Review, VIII (1827), 1. 36. C. R. Fay, in Cambridge History of the British Empire, 11, 388. 37. Quarterly Review, V (1811), 416-17, and VI (1811), 496-97. 38. Ibid., XXXIX (1829), 340. 39. BM, memo. on colonies, n.d., Add. MSS, 44738, quoted in Galbraith, "Myths," A.H.R., LXVII, 38.



power and prestige. Adam Smith, rightly remembered for his criticism of the mercantile system, had not onIy remarked that "defence is more important than opulence" but had also decIared, "It is a sort of instinctive feeling to us all that the destiny of our name and nation is not here in this narrow island which we occupy. The spirit of England is volatile not fixed."40 Some fifty years later William Huskisson was stating a similaf article of faith when he declared : England cannot afford to be little. She must be what she is or nothing . . [She] is the parent of many flourishing colonies . . . [and] in every quarter of the globe we have planted the seeds of freedom, civilisation and Christianity. . . . [and] nations, kindred in blood, in habits, and in feelings, to ourselves.41


In 1838, in the debates on Canada, Russell insisted that "the possession of our colonies materially adds to the prosperity of the Empire, the continuance of our mercantile marine and of our naval power," an occasion when his critic, Charles Villiers, admitted that this was the general opinion, though he himself disagreed with it.42 Wakefield naturally echoed and enlarged on such views and insisted that if England gave up he^ colonies, she would "cease to be a p ~ w e r . " ~ W o soberly re Gladstone agreed that we feel proud when we trace upon the map how large a portion o# the earth owns the benignant sway of the British crown, and we are! pleased with the idea that the country which we love should so rapidly reproduce its own image . . . in different quarters of the globe.44 In 1849 the Edinburgh was ready to forget its former qualms. "It is a noble work to plant the foot of Englwd over regions unknown . . . and to diffuse over a new created world the laws of Alfred, the language of Shakespeare and that Christian religion, the last great heritage of man."45 In addition to these sentimental attractions, the mother country was traditionally thought to benefit from the Empire because it could control imperial trade, and even after the reduction of differential tariffs and the relaxation of the Navigation Act from Adam Smith, V e a l t h of Nations, Bk. IV, ch. vii.

Speeches of the Right Honorrrable William Nr4rkirson (London, 1831),

(2 May, 1828).

3 Hansald 40: 34, 518 (16, 25 Jan., 1838).

Wakefield, Avt of CoZonizatiotz, pp. 98-99.

Memo., ibid.

Aubrey de Vere, Edinburgh Review, XCI (1849), 61-62.



1820 onwards, many preferences remained. More and more politically conscious Englishmen, however, were being converted to free trade. By the 1840s British manufacturers needed no such artificial aid, and the doctrinaires assured themselves that preferences on colonial produce not only increased prices for the British consumer but also distorted the colonies' economies by diverting investment and cultivation to costly and unsuitable a c t i v i t i e ~In .~~ 1842, though Peel, Stanley, and Gladstone still defended the principle of imperial trade preferences, they reduced those protecting colonial produce in England and abolished those in intercolonial trade. The duties on timber, sugar (because of slavery), and corn (because of its connection with protectioln to British agriculture) were special cases. Before long, however, these duties along with the Navigation Acts had gone, despite the assertion d Stanley in tho Corn Law debates in 1546 that the principle of protection was the basis of the colonial system, thanks to which English commerce was world-wide and there was "not a sea on, which the flag d England does not float, not a quarter of the world in which the language of England is not heard."47 The free traders did not intend to bring all commercial regulation to an end. Colonial reformer Buller in 1843, Lord John Russell in 1845, and W. R. Greg in the Edinburgh Review in 1851 argued that imperial trade had to remain controlled by the mother country, if only in the cause of freedom; as Buller insisted, "of the fiscal policy of the different portions of your own empire, you can always make The former Colonial Secretary, Lord Grey, who had told the House of Lords in 1846 that "We maintain the right to regulate the colonial trade in the manner most conducive to the welfare of the Empire," repeated this view in his apologia in 1853.49 This attitude meant that British statesmen thought that the colonies were still valuable. If Canada were to leave the Empire and join the United States, wrote Russell in 1849, "the imposition of a duty of from 30 to 40 per cent on British manufactured goods would be a great blow to Manchester and Leed~."~O So there were advantages to be derived from the "formal" colonial Empire, how46. Howick, 3 Hansard 63: 513-15 (13 May, 1842). 47. Ibid. 86: 1165-67 (25 May, 1846). 48. Ibid. 68: 501 (6 Apr., 1843), and 81: 667 (17 June, 1845); Edinburgh Review, XCIII (1851), 496. 49. 3 Hansard 88: 907 ( 2 0 Aug., 1846); Henry, Earl Grey, The Colonial Policy of Lord John RzlsselPs Administration (London, 1853), I, 281-82. 50. Russell to Grey, 19 Aug., 1849, quoted in Galbraith, "Myths," A.H.R., LXVII, 38.



ever important the "informal" trading empire with non-British countries may by this time have beco~ne.~l V. T. Harlow noticed the emerging concept after 1784 of a "second British Empire . . . of ocean trade routes protected by naval bases and nourished by commercial dep6ts or factorie~.''~~ By 1850 this seemed to have been realized, for during the preceding sixty-five years Britain had acquired strategic bases at Aden, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Malta, and in the South Atlantic and had expanded her trading interests in India, Ceylon, Malaya, the West Indies, and Latin America. At the same time she had developed her "colonies of settlement" in Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. These, like the parts of the Empire devoted more specifically to trading, were certainly thought of as sources of power and prestige. Even more important, they were appreciated as suitable destinations for those emigrants who were leaving England, Scotland, and Ireland in ever-growing numbers. As early as 1812 the Qzlurterty, alarmed by the possible consequences of the increasing population, had advocated emigration as a means of relieving distress, quoting in capitals, "BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY: REPLENISH THE EARTH AND SUBDUE IT."^^ As time went on, overcrowding and abject poverty in Ireland, evictions and clearances in the Scottish highlands, widespread pauperism in marly of the agricultural counties of England, and the distress in the industrial districts of particular groups like the handloom weavers all combined to weaken opposition to migration simply because loss of population was in itself an evil. It seemed clear that some of the population were "redundant" and that emigration to countries where labour was badly wanted would bath reduce distress and remove a threat to "domestic peace." "By her colonies," declared the Edinburgh in 1849, "England can retrieve the past" and make good the errors in her policy which had led to the creation of "Pa~perism."~~ Since 1820 the cause of emigration had been supported by publicists like WiImot Horton, the novelist John Galt, and the controversialist R. F. Gourlay in Canada, by the f i e Presbyterian 51. For the distinction between "formal" and "informal" empire, see John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, "The Imperialism of Free Trade," Econ. H n t . Rev., second series, VI (1953), 1; 6. Fay, in Cawbridge Hrstory of the Brit~sh Empire, 11, 399. 52. V. T. Harlow, The Found/ng of the Second British Empire, 1763-1793, 11, N e w Continents and Changing Valt/es (London, 1964), 1. 53. Qufrterly Review, VIII (1812), 355. 54. Ed~nbtlrghReview, XCI (1849), 57; cf. 3 Hansard 48: 841-919 ( 2 5 June, 1839); Lord Dalhousie, ibzd. 70: 575 ( 4 July, 1843, House of Lords).



John Dunmore Lang in Australia, by Archbishop Whately in Ireland, by Poulett Scrope, Herman Merivale, and many others in England," as well as by Wakefield and his disciples, by Colonial Office spokesmen, and by the Commissioners for Colonial Land and Emigration. At the same time the attitude of the economists unde~went,as Lionel Robbins has put it, a "very marked transformation."" James Mill had been hostile and T. R. Malthus doubtful; J. R. McCulloch, though sympathetic, was a little reserved; Nassau Senior was more favourable and Robert Torrens enthusiastic. But the climax came in 1848 when John Stuart Mill, in flat contradiction to his father, had "no hesitation in declaring that Colonisation, in the present state of the world is the best affair of business in which the capital of an old and wealthy country can engage."&7 Since even Richard Cabden declared in Parliament that colonization was beneficial both to Great Britain and to her emigrants," it was clear that migration was replacing trade as a respectable raison d'dtre of Britain's "formal" Empire, even though trade might remain the mainspring of her "infonnal" one. 55. R. J. Wilmot Horton, Causes and Remedies of Pauperism in the United Kingdom Considered (London, 1830), A Letter to the Anonymous Author of England and America (London, 1834), and Ireland and Canada (London, 1839); John Galt, Autobiography (London, 1833); T. Rolph, A Descriptive and Statistical Account of Canada (London, 1841), and Emigration and Colonisation (London, 1844); R. F. Gourlay, General Introduction to Statistical Accounts of Upper Canada (London, 1822); Sir Francis Bond Head, T h e Emigrant (London, 1846); J. D. Lang, Transportation and Colonizdtion (London, 1837), Emigration to Port Phillip (London, 1848), and Juvenile Pau er Emigration (London, 1848); Richard Whately, Thoughts on Secondary PuniiRment (London, 1832); J. A. Jackson, National Emigration (London, 1848); G. Poulett Scrope, Extracts o f Letters from Persons W h o Emigrated (London, 1832); H. Merivale, Lectures on Colonisation and Colonies (London, 1841-42); G. R. Porter, Progress of the Nation (London, 1851); J. A. Roebuck, T h e Colonies of England (London, 1849); Anon., T h e Emigrants Guide to N e w South Wales, Van Diemen's Lznd, Upper Canada, Lower Canada and N e w Brunswick (London, 1835). 56. Lionel Robbins, Robert Torrens and the Evolution of Classical Economics (London, 1958), p. 144. Cf. D. Winch, Classical Political Economy and the Colonies (London, 1965); B. A. Corry, ilfoney, Saving.r and Investment in England, 1800-1810 (London, 1962), pp. 37-38. 57. James Mill, "Colonies," in Supplement to Encyclopaedia Britannica (1823). T . R. Malthus, evidence to Select Committee on Emigration, Third Report, 9. 323 ff., in Paul. Papers, 1826-27 (Cmd. 550), V, 225. Richard Whately, Intvoductory Lectures on Political Economy (London, 1832), and "Emigration to Canada," Quarterly Review, XXIII (1820), 373. J. R. McCulloch, Edizburgh Review, XLV (1826), 49, and XLIX (1829), 300. Nassau Senior, Retnarks on Emigration (London, 1831), and Aft Outline of the Science o f Political Economy (London, 1836). Robert Torrens, Colonisation of South Australia (London, 1835), Minute on Ezlidence Given by Mr. IV'akefield before the Committee on the Affairs of South Australia (London, 1841), and Self-Supporting Colonisation (London, 1847); cf. Robbins, Robert Torrens. John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy (1848), ed. W . J. Ashley (London, 1909), p. 971; 6.ibid., Bk. IV, ch. iv. 58. 3 Hansard 70: 205 (22 June, 1843).



Even before the end of the Napoleonic wars, Lord Selkirk, Robert Semple, and Colonel Talbot had undertaken settlement schemes in Canada; after the peace many ex-soldiers were given land there, and ex-officers could obtain grants in New South Wales. In 1819 Parliament voted ÂŁ50,000 for emigration to the Cape (the result was the settlement at Albany in the east of the province). In 1820-21 over three thousand Scots, including twelve hundred weavers from Glasgow, were assisted to emigrate; and in 1821, 1823, 1824, and 1827, Parliament made further grants to assist emigration from Ireland, one result being Peter Robinson's settlements in Canada. In 1826 the Canada Land Company, backed by able propaganda from John Galt, set a precedent which others were to follow for company colonization. Its object was to provide "access to the settlemcnt of land by a steady industrious agricultural population" by buying waste and uncleared land, preparing it, developing communications, and making advances to the settler^.^" By this time official voices were being raised, and both "Prosperity" Robinson (later Viscount Goderich and the Earl of Ripon) and Wilmot Horton were urging that the emigration of paupers should be further aided from government funds. This was not the "shovelling out of paupers" later denounced by Wakefield and Buller in their apparent anxiety to claim credit for the colonial reformers for all imperial projects and t a denigrate the work of all their predecessors and critics." There was a difference, reported the Select Committee on Emigration in 1827, bekween "Colonisation and Emigration, that is, between planting colonists in a soil prepared to receive them, aided by a small portio?a of capital to enable them to take root and flourish, and the mere pouring out of an indefinite quantity of Emigrants without capital."61 It recommended, like Wakefield, a scheme for "systematic colonisation," though it would not be financed by the sale of crown l a d s in the colonies, and it looked to the migrants' quickly becoming selfsupporting and employing "labourers for themselves" rather than becoming "labourers for others."62 Some who were sympathetic to emigration, which they regarded as at least a palliative if not a complete remedy for distress, argued that the settlers should be 59. Prospectus, quoted, S.C. on Emigration, Third Report, p. 461, in Pad. Papers, 1826-27, V , 225. For Galt, see n. 55. 60. Wakefield, Art of Coloniz&ion, p. 138; for Buller, see ibid., p. 488. Third Report, sec. vii, p. 35, in Parl. Pa[)err, 1826-27, V . 1 62. Horton, Hansard, n.s., 16: 480 ( 1 5 Feb., 1827); cf. Howick, 3 Hansard 48: 841 ff. (25 June, 1839), and Russell, Viscount R,lahon, Stanley, ibid. 57: 984-97 ( 2 2 Apr., 1841).



permitted to go to foreign countries like the United States. If they were to be given assistance in their settlement, however (that is, "colonisation" not "emigration"), imperial management was necessary; and as the colonization was to benefit the mother country, it was virtually a corolla~yof any such scheme that Lord Durham should write in his famous Report that "this country which has founded and maintained these coIonies at great expense . . . may justly expect compensation in turning their unappropriated resources to the account of its redundant population. They are the rightful patrimony of the English people."63 Unfortunately two consequences seemed to follow. The fkst was that if British migrants were to live in "British communities overseas, the reproduction in the colonies of a social structure and political institutions like those at home was called for. In 1831 Goderich said that he would like to transfer to Canada "every institution which the more ample experience of Great Britain recommends as calculated to promote at once the Stability of Government and the Welfare of S ~ c i e t y . ' 'Gladstone ~~ was not unique in the belief he expressed in 1835 that "an established church and aristocracy" were "the twin pillars of society," which without them would lack "strength and c o h e ~ i o n . " ~ But ~ neither Canadians nor Australians wanted such pillars. In both communities British attempts to give privileges to the Church of England aroused bitter opposition, only more intense in Canada because both tha 'hrivileges" and the non-Anglican population were greater. In 1840 Lord Sydenham, the Governor, told Russell that the clergy reserves, the lands kept to endow the church, were "the one great overwhelming grievance . . . the root of all the troubles in [Upper Canada] . . . the cause of the Rebellion . . . the perpetual source of discord, strife and hatredenC6 There was no Canadian aristocracy. None was wanted, nor for that matter could one be created. But though Russell recognized at last in 1837 that it was impossible to establish there an "assembly with the moral influence of the House of Lords,"" for a long 63. C. P. Lucas (ed.), Lord Durham's Report on the Aff4ir;zirs of British North America (Oxford, 1912), 11, 13; cf. appendix on land policy by Charles Buller, ibid., 111, 37.

64. Viscoutlt Goderich to Sir John Colborne, quoted in Helen Taft Manning, "The Colonial Policy of the Whig Ministers, 1830-37," C.H.X., XXXIII (1952), 222. 65. Gladstone, memo., quoted in Paul Knaplund, Gladrtone and Britarn's Impetzal P o l ~ c y (London, 1927), p. 25; cf. 3 Hansard 44: 730 (29 May, 1840). 66 18 Jan., 1840, quoted in George W. Brown, "The Durham Report and the Upper Canadian Scene," C.H.R., X X (1939), 151. 67. 3 Ha?arard 36: 1289 ( 6 Mar., 1837).



time successive British Governments had argued that a nominated Legislative Council would provide a substitute, to represent the interests of property and to check any wild ebullition of 'American" democratic feeling. Because such a body could not represent a "gentry" class which did not exist and because it had no roots in the community, it acted only as a support for successive governors in opposition to the popularly based Assemblies; like the church it was a major cause of discontent, even of rebellion. Unfortunately, as English statesmen came to think more about colonial affairs, whether or not they were colonial reformers in the strict sense of the term, they proceeded to interfere more and more with colonial administration and to lay down principles of policy from London in the conviction that they knew best what was good for the colonials. The authoritarian element in utilitarianism is now widely recognized, and the combination of utilitarian and humanitarian authoritarianism so obvious in India in the influence there of men like James Mill and T. B. Macaulay and their official superiors was not confined to that newly conquered subcontinent. Well might the Canadian W. L. Mackwie complain to Joseph Hume in 1835 that the "real object" of every colonial secretary was to "govern us by orders emanating from Downing Street,'' and on the other side of the fence Gladstone, in a memorandum on colonial affairs, commented abolut 1850 that "the school of discipline that we have provided for our later colonists has been less free than that in which Henry and Washington were reared."6" In the political field the colonists wanted the freedoms of Englishmen. To them, this meant the right to self-government in internal affairs and, on the principle d "no taxation without representation," the right to vote their own taxes and appropriate their own revenue. To the right of self-government, in theory, the Colonial Office like the colonial reformers had no objection, especially because it meant the colonies would tax themselves and noit be a burden on the British Treasury, though administrators and reformers might differ among themselves and from the colonists on the question of what were internal, as distinct from imperial, affairs. The English political system also included, said the Colonial Office, an irremovable judiciary, royal control of the crown lands and their revenue, and a minimum civil list to pay permanemt salaries for at least the higher officials. To the colonists (especially in Canada, supported 68. W. L. Mackenzie, quoted in Manning, "Colonial Policy," C.H.R., XXXIII, 203; Gladstone, memo., quoted in Galbraith, "Myths," A.H.R., LXVII, 37; cf. Eric Stokes, The English Utilitavidns and India (Oxford, 1959).



in this case by Stephen) the first meant the entrenchment of incompetents and political opponents;" the second meant British management both of an important sphere of internal policy and of a large amount of the colonial revenue; and the third meant that the Assembly would be deprived of an important weapon in its struggle for self-government, a weapon which incidentally the House of Commons had wielded with great effect in the constitutional struggles of the seventeenth century. Though these claims led to larger demands by colonists and their supporters for local self-government than either Whigs or Tories were for soma time prepared to grant, in their insistence that British supremacy and British institutions must be maintained, eventually the logic of the colonial claims, amplified by Durham's Report and Britain's desire to be rid of financial obligations, would largely carry the day. Yet in the meantime conflicts persisted, for the second cmsequence of the emphasis on imperial migration, and another obstacle to local self-government, was the British insistence on controlling land policy and appropriating the land revenue. The desire to create communities in the image of the mother country led not only to British attempts to control colonial institutions but also to Britain's undertaking what Wakefield, Buller, and Grey regarded as the duty of managing the colonial waste lands, which belonged to the crown, as a trust for all the citizens of the Empire, past and future.'O These waste lands would be wanted to help more migrants and could not simply be surrendered to self-interested locals to dissipate. Here then was a further cause of discontent. The Empire was also proving of value as a place of investment. Certainly British capital poured into the United States, South America, and Europe as well as into British possessions; but in the latter it had some advantages in operating under British laws, and the Colonial Office would surely have vetoed a repudiation of colonial debts on the scale carried out, fw example, by some of the states of the American Union at this period. So the Canada Land Company, British North American Land Company, New Zealand 69. For a measured but weighty criticism of the "pre-rebellion" Canadian administration, see C. P. Thomson (Lord Sydenham) to Russell, 15 Dec., 1839, in Sanderson, Arthur Papers, 11, 345-52. 70. Since, wrote Buller, colonial land policy "cannot be ad~antageously or effectively carried out by any other than the supreme and central authority of the Empire," it was "the plnjn duty [my italics] of the Imperial Legislature to interfere." Lucas, Lord Durham's Report, 111, 37; Grey, Colonial Policjl, I, 319. Wakefield was prepared to leave land administrdtion to the colonies, so long as "the Imperial government" established the land policy to be followed. Wakefield, Art oj Colonization, p. 440.



Company, A. A. Company, Van Diemen's Land Company, Scottish Australian Company, South Australian Association, and a host of others helped in imperial development. On the whole they were unpopular in the colonies, where they were often denounced as parasites reaping the reward of imperial favours while exploiting the colonists. This accusation was not always true, however, for the land companies assisted colonial development, provided an outlet for British capital, and widened the circle of those at home who were interested in colonial affairs. In all these activities the question arises whether the colonial reformers were helping the imperial cause or harming it. Almost certainly they were doing both. They were surely not the only people in England, or in British politics, interested in the Empire and opposed to its disintegration, though many have written as if they were; nonetheless their ceaseless propaganda and their colonization schemes aroused more interest in the Empire than there would otherwise have been. The Colonial Office, almost before the reformers' agitation began and quite independently of it, decided to sell crown lands (waste lands) instead of granting The reformers' successful advocacy of the use of the land revenue to assist emigration was pel-haps their most important contribution to imperial practice, though one should not forget that when in 1831 the Government decided to assist migration, it mooted this as one of several possible means of meeting the cost, and it naturally adopted this practice when the land fund became large.72 But though using the land revenue when it was available, the Office rightly refused to agree that all of it should be spent on It remembered other needs, such as surveying and the care of the abariginals, and it recognized that in some colonies public works were an important means of encouraging migratian 71. See A. G. L. Shaw, "Orders from Downing Street," Jou~nalof the Roynl Australian Historical Society, LIV (1968); June Phillipp, "Wakefieldian Influence in New South Wales," Historical Studies, Arrstralia and New Zealand, IX (1960), 170 ff.; A. McKay (ed.), Journals of the Land Commissioners of Van Diemen's Land (Hobart, 1962), p. v. Peter Burroughs, Britain and Australia, 1833-SS, a Stlrdy in Imperial Relations and Cwwn Lands Administration (Oxford, 1967), ch. ii. seems larrelv to accept these conclusions. despite earlier criticism in "Wakefield 'and the Rip& and* Regulations," Hisioricdl Studies, Au.rtralia nnd New Zealand, X I (1965), 452 ff. 72. Goderich to Sir Ralph Darling, 23 Jan., 1831, Historical Records of Australia, first series, XVI, 34; Quarterly Review, XLIII (1830), 165-71, and XLV (1831), 142-43; Bourke to Goderich, 27 Feb., 30 Apr., 1832, Goderich to Bourke, 26. 29 S~D..1831. Historical Records o f Australia. first series. XVI., 532. - , 624., 376. wakefield argued that it did Aot matter 'what the land revenue was spent ' 7 . on. Wakefield, Art of Colonization, p. 376. Most of the reformers, however, thought it should be used to assist emigration. Cf. S.C. on Disposal of Colonial Waste Lands, Report and Evidence, in Parl. Papers, 1836 (Cmd. 512), XI.



and settlement (for example, in Canada and South Australia), although unfortunately it did not realize this often enough (for example, in Van Diemen's Land). The reformers had no monopoly in supporting emigration, and between 1830 and 1850 successive Governments adopted a variety of schenles. "It is . . . a mere Delusion to suppose that there is something called Colonisation, which is wilfully or negligently set aside," said T. F. Eliot of the Colonial Office in 1846. Of "the very able Theories propounded under that name . . . the whole practicable Part . . . has long ago been adopted and carried out. .. Emigration seems to be used to mean what actually happens; Colonisation to mean anything whatever that might be better. They are mere Wards of Praise and Bla~ne.''~~ Furthermore, it would be difficult to argue that Wakefieldian "col~nisation" would have fared better than the "emigration" actually carried out. Neither the Government nm the refbrmers were willing to allow the colonists to decide land policy. Insoifar as their WakeJieldian principles were unsuitable and unpopular, and since they were adopted to a considerable extent, despite Wakefield's assertion that they "had never anything like a fair trial anywhere," the reformers contributed substantially to colonial discontent, particularly in A ~ s t r a l i a . That ~~ they were largely responsible for the foundation of South Australia is to their credit; that under their management it went bankrupt, they preferred to forget. Though in New Zealand their activities were at first hampered by Stanley, even after benevolent treatment by Grey their company failed and passed unregretted from the Nor were the refonners so successful as is often alleged in averting the breakup of the Empire by the extension of local selfgovernment. True they urged this, and it is possible their advocacy may have been a spur to some ministers. But such an idea had a long Radical history through the American Revolution, Tom Paine, Charles James Fox, and Jeremy Eentham, whose Emancipate YOUP' Colonies was reprinted at the time of the! Canadian troubles. Selfgovernment was supported by men like Joseph Hume, J. A. Roebuck, Francis Place, and Daniel OyConnellin the United Kingdom and by Robert Baldwin and other reformers in Canada. Stephen 7 4 . T. F. Eliot, evidence to House of Lords, S.C. on Colonisation from Ireland, First Report, q. 4383, in ibid., 1847 (Cmd. 7 3 7 ) , VI, 1. 75. Wakefield, Art of Colonization, p. 2 5 ; cf. N.S.W. Legislative Council, Committee on Crown Land Grievances, Report, Votes and proceeding^, 1844, 11. The "sufficient price" retarded settlement in Canada until it was abandoned in 1843. 7 6 . Morrell, British Colonial Policy, pp. 327-28.

B R I T I S H A T T I T U D E S TO T H E COLONIES, CA. 1820-1850


had long been preaching the same doctrine inside the Colonial Office, and however hostile Parliament may have been to the "disloyalists" in Canada, the rebellion there was presumably not without effect. By 1840 the responsible politicians in both the major parties agreed that as soon as a colonial population had the resources to manage its local affairs, it should be left to do so. "As to Colonial Reform, as it is called, I am in favour of it," Russell told Grey in 1849; and although in 1839 Stephen had been in favour of suspending the Jamaican constitution, thinking "its Legislative and Judicial system unworthy of confidence," in 1850 he admitted that there is no longer a man to be found who dissents from the opinion, which thirty-five years ago no man ever assented to the opinion that the intervention of the British Govemment in the local affairs of a colony is an inconvenience to be avoided by every concession and arrangement which would not evidently induce some! still greater mischief.77


In the 1830s Durham, Buller, and Wakefield had been slightly in advance of official opinion about the proper relation between the colonial governors, their ministers, and the elected assemblies where they existed. Durham, however, held no brief for "responsible government" in his Report, Russell opposed it firmly in 1839-41, and Buller and Wakefield violated the doctrine in their support of Sir Charles Metcalfe, Governor of Canada in 1844.78 Some Wakefieldians like Robert Gouger placed such importance on "wise" land policy that they justified withholding it from colonial control on the ground that "good government cannot make a new country prosperous where the means by which public land becomes private property are badly arranged."79 Both Buller in 1843 and Molesworth in 1850 insisted on full imperial control over land, tariff, and migration policies; and during the previous decade Wakefield's attitude to the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand and to the aborigines in Australia would, if implemented, have undermined the humanitarian justification for British imperial rule. So it 77. Russell to Grey, quoted in Galbraith, "Myths," A.H.R., LXVII, 35; Stephen to Russell, 11 Oct., 1839, quoted in Knaplund, "Stephen," J.M.H., I, 56, n. 56; Stephen to Grey, 15 Jan., 1850, quoted in Morrell, Brittsh Colontul Polfcy, p. 45. Like Stephen, Buller had supported the suspension of the Jamaican constitution in 1839. In the debate on the Canadian Rebellion Losses Act, Elgin's support of h ~ sministers was upheld by the votes of the Peelites and Whigs, as well as the Radicals. 3 Hanrurd 106: 191 ff , 355 ff. (14, 15 June, 1849). 78. Ibid. 75: 64-65 (30 Apr., 1844); for Wakefield's views, see Morrell, British Colonial Policy, p. 63. 79. Robert Gouger, South Australia in 1837 (London, 1837), p. 1, quoted in Winch, Classical Politzcal Ecotzo~ny,pp. 114-15.



was perhaps as well that, as C. A. Bodelsen says, the activity of the reformers "was limited to a few years,"80 for certainly their plans miscarried. It is always difficult to pinpoint the date and source of ideological change, but by 1850 the practical politicians were moving ahead olf theoreticians who had long been standing still, who so distrusted the collolnies that they opposed Grey's proposals for federation in Australia because it might encourage separatism, and who wanted a defined "organic unity" in the Empire because they distrusted an evolution based on sentimental nttra~tion.~~ More significant is the contribution of the reformers to the theoy of imperialism, as it later became known, although made unwittingly enough.82 Molesworth and Buller both implicitly rejected "Say's law," recognized that "full employment" was not a necessary feature of the capitalist system, and were ready to advocate colonization as one means of correcting this deficiency in it. In 1837, speaking apparently as an "under-consumptionist," Molesworth argued that wages and profits would both be low (or high) if tl~erewas a great deal of (or very little) competition between labourers and between capitalists for profitable employment. But in the 1830s there was this competition. Labourers and capitalists were both suffering from it because labour and capital were growing more rapidly than the scope for their productive employment. Capital could, and did, seek investment overseas; it was nmre difficult for labour to migrate, but "by means of . . . proper schemes of colonisation . . . the field for the productive employment of labour and capital can be continually enlarged."83 In 1843 Buller, commenting on the prevailing distress, repeated that the "permanent cause of suffering" lay in "the constant accumulation of capital, and the constant increase of population within the same restricted field of ernpl~yment."~~ Though poverty was no worse - if anything it was less - than it had been in the past, it was now better known and mare resented. Some increase in employment was needed to reduce distress, he argued, so he proposed 80. C. A. Bodelsen, Studies in Mid-Victorian Imperialirm (London, 1924, 1963), PP. 19-20. 81. See Russell and Sir William Molesworth, 3 Hansavd 108: 537 ff., 575-77 (8 Feb., 1850); cf. ibid. 106: 937 ff. (26 June, 1849), and 115: 1364 (10 Apr., 1851). 82. See Bernard Semtnel, "The Philosophical Radicals and the Colonies," J.E.H., XXI (1961), 513; D. Winch, "The Classical Econotnist and the Case for Colonisation," Econonzica, XXX (1963), 387, and Classical Political Economy. 83. Molesurorth, 3 Hansard 37: 597-601 (16 Mar., 1837). 84. Buller, ibid. 68: 490-507 ( 6 Apr., 1843); cf. Wakefield, Avt of Colonizution, letter xvi.



"colonisation as a means of remedying that evil by enlarging the field of employment." This would provide opportunities that did not exist at home (though "orthodoxy" might insist that they did), and benefit would arise not merely from "the removal of the labourer from the crowded Mother-country," but by his producing some exchangeable article and so appearing "in your market as a customer" and by the fact that his departure would raise the wages of those who remained. Though without later theoretical refinements, here was the "multiplier" clearly at work. Buller thought "nice calculations" about how many would have to emigrate were unnecessary, for colonization would benefit the nation "not in those merely whom it takes away, but in those whom it enables to exist here in comfort." Thus unemployment (and underemployment) would be reduced, and the tendency for the rate of profit to fall arrested. Though this called for positive state action, in view of the prevailing intense opposition to public works, as well as the opportunities in the colonies, it was by no means foolish to regard colonization as a suitable agent for economic expansion and as a means for the progress of the capitalist system, even though this had not yet reached its "highest stage." A. G. L. SHAW

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