AN ADDRESS BY R. S. NEVILLE, ESQ., K.C., TORONTO
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto March, 2 , 1916
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--In the government of the Empire, as in other things, those who pay the piper have a just right to call the tune. Hitherto the defence of the Empire has rested chiefly upon the Mother Country and accordingly she has largely directed the policy of the Empire in its relation with foreign powers. But the Dominions, during the present great war, have shown a disposition to bear their respective shares; and if they are willing to obligate themselves to do so for the future, then the time is ripe for the formal consideration of a scheme of government for the Empire, which, in return, will provide for the just aspirations of the Dominions to share in the direction of foreign policy and common interests.
Never has the vital necessity of organizing the forces and resources of the Empire been demonstrated so clearly as in the world wide conflict now going on. Of all the forces of the Empire only the British Navy was completely prepared and adequate; and it is not a pleasant reflection for Canadians that their country has had no share in the one efficient and adequate instrument of Imperial defence and power, which has relieved an otherwise hopeless situation, and saved the Empire and our prized civilization from destruction.
But I am one of those who believe that the spirit of the Canadian people is right, that the heart is sound, and that only wise leadership is now required to guide Canada along the true path of Imperial nationhood
and we have ample reason to presume the same of all the other Dominions. In fact, the Empire's hour has struck, and from this time forward the United Kingdoms of Greater Britain must be organized for the protection of every part and interest, as well as for the productive development of the whole vast realm.
Some eminent advocates of Imperial Organization in England have hesitated to put forward concrete proposals lest the Dominions should take alarm for their automony. So, they have argued, it would be better to drift along with the Imperial Conference and such other facilities for co-operation as we now possess, till the practice of working together on a voluntary basis would, by its good results, produce a universal desire to perfect the political machinery. Considering the constant emphasis that has been placed upon autonomy by the Dominions, perhaps there may be excuse for this timidity. Our English friends do not like to lie under the suspicion that they wish to withdraw from the Dominions any of the rights of self-government that have been accorded, and some of them have thought it better to await proposals from the Dominions. And in the Dominions hesitancy has resulted from divided counsel. But experience is a quick educator, and the world-events in which we are now participating have called forth widespread expressions of public opinion throughout the Empire, from which one must conclude that any reasonable scheme of organization would receive favourable consideration, no matter whence its origin.
We in the Dominions must bear in mind that the Mother Country is not seeking to increase her power over the Dominions, and no one is proposing a scheme of government that would have that effect. On the contrary, it is the Dominions that are seeking to extend their powers. As the constitution now stands, the United Kingdom is in supreme control. She not only controls the foreign relations of the whole Empire, but she can legally repeal the British North America Act or any other Dominion Constitution, and by her own authority alone, resume the Government of all the Dominions. There would be no remedy except unlawful and successful resistance, or to speak plainly, revolution. Of course, these powers now lie dormant; but constitutions have been abrogated before now, and such a procedure might become necessary again somewhere within the bounds of our wide realm of the future, if some local government, should abuse its_ powers.
In any acceptable Imperial Constitution supreme power would be placed differently. The Dominions would probably be given powers of amendment over their own constitutions (some of them have such powers now), but all truly Imperial powers would be transferred from the United Kingdom to a new Imperial body created by the new Imperial Constitution, in which the Dominions would be represented. Thus the Dominions would acquire a share in the supreme control of the Empire, and to that extent the power of the Mother Country would be reduced. So, I repeat, it is plain that any representative Imperial government would diminish the powers of the United Kingdom and enhance those of the Dominions: and this is what they--want, and as it should be.
In considering the nature of the Imperial Organization, we must observe certain fundamental principles and objects, and, without violating those principles, adapt the Imperial machinery to the objects in view
1. The principle of responsible representative government must run through all the governing bodies.
2. The autonomous character of the government of the Dominions must be maintained, as well as that of the United Kingdom.
3. A share in the direction and control of foreign policy must be accorded to the Dominions.
4. A corresponding share of the burden of Empire must be assumed by the Dominions.
5. The Empire must be enabled to speak as a unit in dealing with foreign nations, either friendly or hostile.
6. With "safety first" provided for, we must cast aside our provincialism, adopt the principle of mutual aid, and consider the Empire as well as Canada in all our policy.
It will be well for us to bear in mind the historic trend of events by which the British Empire has come to be what it is; for precedent and tradition are powerful forces that can never be ignored. I refer particularly to the development of our modern Dominions. The trend is so manifestly similar in them all, that we may take Canada as the example. From the mild military government that prevailed after the British occupation, we have passed by one step after another to government by Governors and Councils, to representative assemblies, and to full responsible self-government in domestic affairs; and lately we find ourselves negotiating commercial agreements with foreign governments quite independently of the Mother Country. Taking into consideration that, concurrently with these developments by which we gradually acquired complete control of our internal affairs, the British military forces were withdrawn, leaving us in military occupation as well as with the civil power in our hands, it must be plain to all that we have gone far towards national independence. The appointment of ambassadors to foreign capitals with a notification to London that we have assumed control of our foreign relations, is about the only important step left for us to take to sever our connection with the Empire. The negotiation of independent commercial agreements with foreign governments brings a step closer to this end, and if we had a Canadian Navy we would be in a position to step forth into the international arena fully equipped.
Fortunately there is another side to the picture. Within the last thirty years we have begun our Colonial Conferences and developed them into regular Imperial Conferences; we have introduced preferential trade; obtained a position on the judicial Committee of the Privy Council and on the Imperial Committee of Defence; established confidential relations with the British Government with regard to foreign affairs; contributed contingents to the Boer War; and finally pledged our full resources in the common cause of the Empire in her greatest war. These and similar steps taken by all the Dominions voluntarily seem to indicate that they think they have travelled far enough towards independence, and to proclaim to the world that they have finally decided to stand or fall with the Mother Country as a United Empire. And the same history proclaims on the part of the Mother Country the welcome of the Dominions to her Councils, and invites them to full co-operation in Imperial affairs.
Adopting this view, and considering what has already been said, let us see what constitutional machinery can be devised by means of which our Imperial relations can be put upon a satisfactory and permanent basis.
There are cautious ones who think that we had better begin with an Advisory Council; and some would have an Imperial Council. Either of these would undoubtedly have its uses. By such means the Dominions would be brought into constant touch with the British Government, and could give authorized expression to their views, and in this way their influence might be made more constant, their knowledge more complete. But increased knowledge and influence would still fall short of power. A Council might be given some administrative or executive power. It might be a useful means of inquiry, investigation and report, into and upon various subjects, and aid in bringing about improved communications, transportation facilities and trade relation and more harmonious laws and so on. But the members of either of these Councils would act on separate instructions and be responsible to their respective governments thousands of miles apart. Neither of them could be made to accord with the principle of responsible government, as known and practised in British communities. Neither of them could be given the ordinary powers of government or legislation of a general character, nor the direction of foreign affairs. The best we can say of a Council is that it would make consultation more convenient, and understanding and co-operation easier. It would be a step forward, but not a solution of our problem. It is possible, too, that some of our objects might be carried out, by having representatives of the Dominions associated with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as Assistant or Under-Secretaries, the representative of each Dominion being particularly charged with the duty of looking after the interests of his own country, subject, in matters of Imperial or common concern, to the concurrence of the Foreign Secretary or of a Conference of all the secretaries. Such an arrangement would certainly give the Dominions a large share in the management of their own external affairs, and a voice in shaping Imperial foreign policy. I only suggest such a scheme for consideration because it may contain elements worth considering, when we have found a more satisfactory solution. I cannot dwell upon it now.
At the same time we must bear in mind the ease with which, under the British system, a Cabinet of Ministers may be varied or enlarged. Witness the presence (by courtesy of course) of Sir Robert Borden, our Prime Minister, at a Cabinet meeting in London; and, later, that of Mr. Hughes, Australian Prime Minister, at another, having previously attended a meeting of our Cabinet at Ottawa. Witness the elevation of Lord Robert Cecil to Cabinet rank in London by a simple summons. It would seem quite possible to follow the precedent established by the invitations to Sir Robert Borden and Mr. Hughes, till it grew into a recognized practice to have Dominion representatives called into Cabinet or Council when Imperial questions were to be discussed. Such expedients shew the elasticity of the British System, well worth preserving.
Before going further, I must give some attention to the subject of a perpetual voluntary Britannic Alliance which has been put forward as an alternative to political organization. The alliance is not to include any form of Imperial government. On the contrary it contemplates a continuation of the historic trend of the Dominions away from the legal restraints of the Imperial tie until they become independent nationStates. The Alliance, remember, is to be purely voluntary and it is postulated that it will be perpetual. The British Government's Imperial powers are to fall into desuetude, so far as the Dominions are concerned, and nothing will take its place. India and the other dependencies and Crown colonies are to remain subject to the enjoyment of self-government and take her place with the other Dominions as an independent nation-State. British West Indies may become confederated and take the same position. The Crown is to be the common symbol of all the autonomous units. But there will be no common government. Each will exercise supreme government for itself, and be as independent as a foreign nation. Each will have its own representatives at foreign capitals and at London, and its own military and naval forces.
Frankly, I am unable to see the slightest probability, or even a comprehensive possibility, of the proposed perpetual voluntary Alliance either becoming perpetual or being satisfactory while it would last. The "Independent nation-States" within the Empire are to be under no obligations to one another. To speak of an Alliance without obligations is to misuse words. No such Alliance has ever existed, or ever can. Think of it. This Alliance is to be the result of our growing apart, not of our coming together; and this growing apart, it is assumed, will be accompanied by schemes of mutual aid which will so increase the ties of sentiment and interest as to hold the Allies together in perpetuity. You will detect the fallacy in this; for surely there are no ties of sentiment or interest that will be strengthened by our growing apart. I can find no single advantage that could be obtained by co-operative effort under such an Alliance, that could not be more readily obtained and more securely held by co-operative effort under some form of common government in which the Dominions would share and under which they would have a sense of common proprietary rights over the whole worldwide realm. There is a vast difference between being occupants of semi-detached dwellings and being joint proprietors of an Imperial estate.
(A MEMBER : Who is putting forward such a scheme of Empire ?)
I believe those who advocate it are sincere friends of the Empire, and it is their views I wish to combat without any reflections upon their motives. I wish also to avoid all personalities; for I hope to find these same gentlemen working with us in the future. I must only say that one of them, an author of repute, has published a book advocating the Voluntary Alliance I am now discussing. His book circulates throughout the Empire and may do much harm, unless his views are fairly met and answered. A friend of the Empire, gone wrong, may do much greater harm than a known enemy.
It is claimed by the advocates of a Britannic Alliance that mutual preferential trade, improved transportation facilities, increased correspondence, more intimate acquaintance and more frequent personal friendship, coupled with a sense of mutual aid in living, would favour a perpetuation of the Alliance. But the real strength of the Alliance would rest upon a unified economic system. These are conditions, however, which have yet to be created, and so far as they are desirable, we are in a better position to bring them about than we shall be after our relations have become attenuated into a mere voluntary Alliance. Besides, the unification of the Empire's economic system is, as yet, far beyond the distant horizon. To await its advent is to adopt a policy of indefinite drift, and possibly lose an opportunity that may never be so favourable again. It may be further said, that economic unification is not at all necessary to Imperial unity.
This proposal of a Britannic Alliance, which is to be purely voluntary, is highly dangerous and that will be my excuse for dwelling upon it a little further.
We are to have mutual preferential trade to please the Dominions. Of course, the Mother Country must join with them in a protective system against foreigners. But we are to have free trade throughout the Empire to please the Mother Country. So everyone will be happy. Capital is to be encouraged to remain in the Empire to develop it-by preferential treatment, also by penalizing investments abroad with stamp duties, heavier income taxes and heavier death duties. But these inviting appeals are, like many others, made on the false assumption that they pertain, a fortiori, to the proposed Alliance, whereas the objects can be accomplished under any other system quite as well, or better, if they are thought desirable.
The proposed economic system takes for granted that the Mother Country will supply the manufactures for the Dominions and they will find the Mother Country the market for their natural products. To make economic unification complete, the "natural protection" which distance supplies is to be abolished, or minimized, by greatly reduced transportation charges; and, still further, by making these transportation charges uniform between all parts of the realm, regardless of distance, just as letter postage is made uniform for all distances. Ultimately, it is suggested, that transportation might be made free at the public expense, the lines being maintained as public highways are maintained today.
This is to apply to passenger rates as well as freight; so that those whose poverty does not permit them to emigrate now, will be able to go to the Dominions to better their conditions. Thus the conditions of labour are to be unified. But to avoid the shock that this suggestion might give to the Dominions, the Mother Country is first to adopt protection and other measures, to bring the conditions of labour in the British Isles up to the standard of the Dominions. She is to level up. The Dominions are not to be levelled down.
Now we come to the question of foreign policy. Remember that the Dominions are to be independent nation-States. The United Kingdom and each Dominion are to have their respective foreign representatives at the capital of each foreign nation. When the interests agree they will work together harmoniously; when the interests differ each representative will work for his own country. The Mother Country will be in control of all the Empire except the Dominions, and will manage her own foreign affairs. If the Dominions approve her policy, they will voluntarily support it. If they disapprove they will stand aside. Conceivably they may oppose it; and, I repeat, the Dominions are to have their independent naval and military forces. ' Let us suppose a concrete case. The Mother Country desires to enforce her treaty rights with regard to opium against China, and China refuses to carry out her obligations. Britain decides that it is necessary to make a naval demonstration in Chinese waters, possibly, if necessary, to be followed by bombardment of a Chinese port, if China remains obdurate. The British Government asks the Canadian and Australian Governments to transfer their respective Pacific naval forces to the British Admiralty, to be sent to Chinese waters for this purpose. The latter governments first hold Council meetings and debate the merits of Britain's policy. If they approve, they pass the necessary Orders-in-Council and act as desired. If they disapprove, they do not pass the Orders and refuse their aid.
This is an illustration put forward by the author I have mentioned, and the refusal of the Dominions to act is based upon the assumption that Britain's policy and proposed action would shock their national instincts. Thus, he suggests that a perpetual voluntary Britannic Alliance might be maintained between the Dominions and the Mother Country, although her policy and conduct might so shock the national instincts of their people that they would refuse to perform their ordinary duties as Allies. This is to assume that the moral sensibilities or national instincts of the Dominions are far superior to those of the Mother Country. It is to assume that she is so reckless as to risk the-estrangement of the Dominions and the breaking up of the Empire for the sake of selling a little opium. I would like to say to our Homeland- author that we in the Dominions have more faith in the Mother Country than he seems to have; and further, that the remedy against such a possibility is not the erection of the Dominions into independent nation-States, but the adoption of a system of Imperial organization that will bring the Mother Country and the Dominions into agreement beforehand, so that no such situation could ever arise.
The diplomatic arrangements proposed include the appointments by the Dominions of ambassadorial representatives to London as well as to foreign capitals, and with regard to the latter, the member of the Alliance that might have the preponderating interest at any capital would appoint the ambassador; the other Allies, only attaches. Thus Canada would appoint the Ambassador to Washington, Great Britain an attaché.
But then, in reality, our relations with foreign countries are to become comparatively unimportant, for our unified economic system is to put the Empire in a position of "splendid isolation." Let others have the foreign markets. We must not fret if foreign nations even combine against us by granting one another mutual preferential trade arrangements at our expense, and from which we are excluded. The open door policy may go by the board. The new foreign policy will be defensive as now, but concerned, not with foreign trade, but with the preservation of our unrivalled opportunities within the Empire.
There will be no Imperial expenditure, consequently no apportionment of Imperial burdens. If the Mother Country happens to be an island close to a continent and with unfriendly neighbours, that is her misfortune. The other British nation-States are not responsible for geography. She must look after herself. Presumably each British nation-State will have to do the same. Plainly then, there is to be no union of strength, no common defence, no united action except on the impulse of the moment. But we may make mutual agreements. So we could now. But there would be no means of enforcing these agreements-mere scraps of paper-under an alliance. So it is proposed to have unofficial Britannic organization, with strong vigilance committees, to bring local public opinion into line in each community and to bring this worked-up public opinion to bear on the local government and keep it from shirking its obligations, if it showed signs of a desire to do so. The Victoria League, the Overseas Club, and the Royal Colonial Institute are mentioned as examples of organizations that might be used for this purpose. I might add a suggestion from the German system of buying up the press of any Dominion that might need enlightenment.
Now it is plain that the devotees of Alliance have overlooked one of the most important elements of nationbuilding and that is strength. You cannot have a strong building unless the various parts are bound together for mutual support. Decoration, ornamentation and even conveniences can be dispensed with; but without solid foundations and mutual support of all the parts, the building will not be safe; and without safety, we must decline to trust our lives in it.
These gentlemen confess that the strength of the proposed Alliance lies in the economic and other developments such as I have mentioned. There is to be not only a revolution in world policy, but an economic revolution; and free trade throughout, substituted voluntarily, of course, but permanently, is to supplant the fiscal and economic systems of the Dominions. If so, there is no prospect of an effectual Alliance becoming a settled fact short of the Millennium, and then it won't be needed. If we take their advice, we shall just follow a policy of drift and we shall have the well-earned reward of the shiftless, the short-sighted and the shirker.
The brilliant Greeks could never conceive of anything broader than City States and unstable alliances. And when a new colony was founded, the colonists carried sacred fire from the altar to their new home, set up a new altar and kept it burning. Sentiment was not lacking. But there was no political union. The colonies were mere volunteers in the quarrels of the motherland, or kept aloof. They were free to quarrel among themselves or to fight against the mother country. The empire died from anaemic voluntaryism and it is to be the same fate that the advocates of a voluntary Britannic Alliance would lead the British Empire.
What then is the ultimate solution of our problem? It is undoubtedly some form of federation. We may approach that end by mead of an Advisory Council, an Imperial Council, organized Conferences, or any other institution that will facilitate co-operation; but without a common government, we cannot have effective common action, or achieve Imperial stability; and to have responsible government in Empire affairs we must have an Empire Parliament, Assembly, or Congress, representative of all the federated parts, to which Imperial ministers will be responsible.
One of the essentials of responsible government is a live wire and close connection between the King and the people. Under British systems of constitutional government, this is provided by making the King's ministers the people's servants. But the King's ministers in the Dominions who are the servants of the people of the Dominions, have no jurisdiction to deal with Imperial policy. Hence in Imperial affairs the Dominions are entirely without the system of responsible government. To remedy this, we must create a body of Imperial ministers who will be responsible to the representatives of the United Kingdom and the Dominions all sitting together in one Imperial Assembly. That is the only way in which the Dominions can obtain or complete their autonomy, in external or Imperial affairs, and at the same time, in that wider field, enjoy representative and responsible government. As we are now, some of the most vital interests of the Dominions are wholly beyond the jurisdiction of Dominion ministers. They are in the hands of ministers who are responsible solely to the people of the United Kingdom. Thus, our foreign affairs, involving issues of peace or war, are not in the hands of our people, but in the hands of the people of the United Kingdom, and in this respect we have one democratic people exercising irresponsible power over several other democratic peoples, a condition that the latter, as selfrespecting competent peoples, cannot permit to continue.
It may seem bold to advocate any kind of Empire Federation when we consider the fate of the last Imperial 'Federation movement. But the work of the promoters was then pioneer work. The period of laissez faire had not yet passed away. The Empire spirit was only beginning to make its appearance. Since then we have wakened to outside danger, to the threat to free institutions and to the need of all our united and organized strength. The Dominions now realize that the Mother Country is necessary to them, and she realizes not only their economic, but their military value to her. A very proper Imperial pride is in evidence, and not the less because we have been passing through a recent period of humiliation, caused largely by the very lack of organization we now advocate. If free nations cannot organize, then free nations will cease to exist. We see now, for the first time in living memory, the age-old contest for world power waged with unscrupulous skill and unprecedented strength, and we realize that there is one kind of Imperialism that seeks to establish a monopoly of power upon the ruins of the national liberties of the world. It is a monster without conscience and reappears whenever Freedom sleeps. As an Empire of free nations, we shall deserve our fate if we 4o not heed the lesson.
I urge upon you, then, the federation of the United Kingdom and the Dominions, and one Imperial Parliament, and I am under the impression that this Parliament should be a new creation, not a grafting of something new upon the present British Parliament.
We do not need, in an Imperial Parliament, over 600 members of the Commons from the United Kingdom, with as many more Lords. Such a Parliament, with proportionate representation from the Dominions, would be quite unwieldy, and much less useful and expeditious than a smaller body. We do not require a large number of "back benchers." Whether there 'be two houses or one is a matter of detail. But Lords and Commoners should be eligible for membership, and that membership should consist of men chosen for the purpose, either by election or by appointment, or by some method agreed on at an Imperial Conference or Convention.
The principles of responsible government, as understood in our existing Parliaments, would have to be observed, and the new Imperial Parliament would deal with only those questions assigned to it by the Constitution. All the powers now vested in the British Parliament would lapse so far as the Dominions and the Empire are concerned. Those necessary to be kept alive would be transferred to the Imperial Parliament. The British Parliament would become, as it were, a Dominion Parliament to deal with the affairs of the United Kingdom. The principle of autonomy would extend to the local business of all, and the extreme autonomist would be satisfied by giving the Imperial Parliament only delegated powers.
His Majesty's advisers in Imperial affairs would be the Cabinet of the new Imperial Parliament; in local affairs the Cabinets of the local Parliaments. The Imperial Parliament would have the power to amend the Imperial Constitution, of course, but only in accordance with the procedure agreed upon and provided in the Constitution itself. The powers essential to the Imperial Parliament are wide but few. They would extend to Foreign Policy and Defence, as a matter of course, and to such other matters as would be agreed on for convenience, expediency or mutual advantage, and the list could be extended from time to time as experience invited it.
The Imperial Cabinet would include a Prime Minister, a Foreign Secretary, a Chancellor of the Imperial Exchequer, and Secretaries or Ministers for the Army, for the Navy, for India, for the Dependencies and such others as would be found necessary or advisable. Members from the Dominions would be equally eligible for portfolios with those from the United Kingdom, and instead of seeing an antipodean sitting in the ruins of London Bridge, posterity may yet see a New Zealander Prime Minister of the United Kingdoms of Greater Britain.
And here let me say a word to the autonomist who fears that Imperial Organization will infringe the rights of self-government of the Dominions in their domestic affairs. We are all autonomists. Those of us who wish to extend the principle of self-government to external affairs by a political organization which will give the Dominions equal status with the Mother Country in the Empire, and a proportionate voice in directing common interests, must not be accused of being unfaithful to self-government. On the contrary, we wish to extend it. Those who are content to have autonomy at home and subordination abroad are not consistent autonomists at all. Yet we understand their point of view. They fear that Imperial federation will undermine local autonomy. This I entirely deny. I believe that a scheme of government for the Empire can be devised which will give ample, though only delegated, powers to the Imperial Government, and so defined as to leave untouched every right of self-government which we now enjoy and wish to retain.
Under an Imperial federal system, we shall continue to make our laws, civil and criminal, establish our own Courts of justice, and appoint our own judges, police and officials. Our assets, too, will be left untouched. Lands, mines, forests, waters, wader powers and fisheries-everything we now possess will still be ours. We shall still control immigration and the conditions of citizenship. The educational system will also remain in our own hands. So will our fiscal system and every incident of taxation will remain under our own control. just as now. These are the things that touch us most, intimately. In fact, the daily life of the ordinary citizen will not be touched at all by Imperial Organization except that we shall pay our honest dues and leave off forever our parasitic dependence upon British taxpayers for the defence of our coasts and overseas commerce.
The Constitution itself would, in accordance with our original hypothesis, provide for a just distribution of the burdens of Empire. The taxable capacity of the United Kingdom, and each Dominion could be ascertained by independent and impartial experts to begin with and re-ascertained periodically-say once in five years-so as to keep pace with the growth and development of each country. This taxable capacity, either alone or modified by other considerations, would be the basis of taxation for Imperial purposes, and when the budget was passed, once a year, or once in two years perhaps, the proper proportion of taxation would be assigned to each, collected by the local governments .as agents of the Imperial Exchequer and paid over. If security were thought advisable, certain taxes could be pledged or ear-marked for Imperial purposes, and the Imperial machinery provided for collecting them in case any government should make default. This would give the required financial strength, and in a crisis the taxable capacity of the whole Empire could be pledged for loans, thus enabling the Empire to get the most favourable terms. The power to tax is the only means by which any government can give a lender security, and the value of the security depends upon the taxable capacity of the people. By pledging the whole autonomous Empire, the security would be much improved and the best terms obtained.
The first and grand purpose for which the Imperial revenues would be required, after paying the expenses of the Imperial Government, Parliament and foreign representatives, would be the security of the Empire--that is, for the maintenance of the Navy and Army, the coaling stations and other means of defence. The expenses would follow of any other matters that might be placed by the Constitution within the jurisdiction of the Imperial Government.
With regard to defence, local defence would be a part of the general defence, and the entire expenditure, general and local, would have to be considered, so that, in adjusting the contributions to the Imperial Exchequer, credit would be given to each country for its expenditure for local defence.
Each Imperial unit would be free to adopt its own military system, and military arrangements and forces would all be coordinated. Each might supply its own naval forces for the defences of its own coasts and ports, that is, submarines, torpedo boats, destroyers, or whatever was intended to operate only from local bases. Each could also, if it wished, provide fast cruisers to protect the trade routes. There would be no lack of opportunity to encourage shipbuilding in any Dominion. That would rest with itself. But the great fighting units that would be intended to "go anywhere and do anything" should belong to an Imperial Navy maintained by all and under one control.
There would be nothing to prevent one country from having universal military service or conscription, if it so decided, without interfering with the liberty of the others. Each would profit, no doubt, from the example and experience of another, and there might be a tendency to adopt similar measures, but only in accordance with the principles of autonomy. There should be enlistment for overseas service throughout the whole Federated Empire in accordance with the local systems, so that the Imperial Government would always know the military strength available for Imperial purposes. There would be no reason why others should not enlist for home defence only, so that the services of those who would not or could not go abroad would still be available for home defence.
Whatever local staffs, military and naval colleges and so on there might be, everything would be coordinated, and there would lame an Imperial Admiralty and an Imperial Army Council or Staff, that would direct the operation of the Imperial forces. With these Imperial forces at command of an Imperial Government, an Imperial Foreign Secretary would be able to negotiate with both friends and possible enemies, with complete knowledge of the Imperial strength that would be ready to support his diplomacy.
The Dominions could retain control of their fiscal systems and immigration as now. They would, in fact, retain all their powers of local government and their autonomy, made more complete by being extended to the foreign field.
The steps to be taken to accomplish an organization of the Empire are simple. A special Imperial Conference or an Imperial convention could be called, representative of all the autonomous units of the Empire, concrete proposals discussed and essentials agreed on. If we can agree on essentials then we can have a Constitution. If we cannot agree, we can do the next best thing. We can find out our differences, then we can discuss the proposals and differences throughout the Empire and have another or other conferences till agreement is reached. We should not be discouraged with disagreement. No federal constitution has ever yet been adopted offhand. The United States had their difficulties. So had Canada. Australia took years to get even a homogeneous people into agreement. South Africans had to compromise. And it is hardly likely that an Imperial constitution can be adopted without much discussion. But the prize is worth our utmost effort, and the sooner we take the first step by means of an Imperial Conference or Convention, the sooner we shall be able to reach the desired end.
A hearty vote of thanks was passed.