Practical Imperialism
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The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 28 Apr 1904, p. 203-216


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Walker, Byron E., Speaker
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Speeches
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Independence as the only future that is possible to Canadians, except that of remaining in the Empire. Ways in which we are by nature British. Ways in which we are not exactly British, especially to the Englishman. The attitude of the Englishman to our loyalty. The unfortunate tangling together of two of Mr. Chamberlain's proposals: the binding together of different parts of the Empire, and a kind of trade bargain between Great Britain and the different parts of the Empire. Stating the views of certain British people. Pointing out to us the conditions in Great Britain, Canada and the United States, as they appear to the speaker, and considering the points of view of Great Britain regarding these conditions, and the reasons why she may conclude to do something different in the way of Imperialism from the proposals of Mr. Chamberlain. A detailed discussion follows. The speaker's object in making these statements regarding Great Britain in order to point out that they are not really thinking of Mr. Chamberlain's preferences and of their trade situation in the way we are thinking of it. Conditions in Canada and the United States in terms of trade. The Englishman's business to see that he does not lose the trade of the newer food-supplying nations. The speaker's belief that Mr. Chamberlain's plan is too startling, and why he thinks it to be so. A proposal from the speaker. The federations of Canada and Australia. The hope that South Africa will soon be such a federation. No reason under this system why Canada, Australia and South Africa should not surrender to an Imperial Council point by point certain things that do not interfere with their desire for home rule in other things. As an example, the question of a Supreme Court. The possibility of a universal marriage and divorce law throughout the whole Empire, and other universal laws such as regards capital punishment. Building up a common idea of the administration of justice, a common notion of what justice is, a common faith that justice is certain to be administered. The notion of a common curriculum in colleges and universities. Imitating the United States by having Empire coasting laws. The desirability that all the reciprocal trade arrangements between one Colony and another, or with the Mother Country, that are possible should be made. Several more suggestions for common interests. The question of Imperial Defence. The suggestion that the "Grade Tour" might include the major parts of the British Empire and learning about one's heritage. Our goal of one flag. The desire for "that kind of coherence that will make everybody in the Empire instinctively feel that while we do not wish to quarrel with the rest of the world, if the emergency arises we shall be found standing back to back absolutely and indefensibly against the world."
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28 Apr 1904
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English
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.70011 Longitude: -79.4163
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Full Text
PRACTICAL IMPERIALISM.
An address delivered on April 28th, 1904, at the Empire Club Luncheon, by Mr. Byron E. Walker, D.C.L., General Manager of the Canadian Bank of Commerce.

MR. PRESIDENT,--shall not hesitate to express at once my thanks to the members of this Club for the opportunity of addressing them. Indeed, I am quite willing to admit that it should be a pleasure to every Canadian to have the opportunity of discussing such a subject as " Imperialism." I only regret that the time is so short and that this complicated and truly great subject can be dealt with but in outline. I had occasion at a meeting of a body in this city, of which I have recently become a member, and where differences of opinion often exist, to recall a saying, I think, by Carlyle, to the effect that the sound basis of a conversation or a discussion is identity in sentiment, but difference of opinion. I am not a member of any Imperial club or league, and yet I hope there is no better Imperialist in Canada.

I fancy I differ somewhat in opinion from most members of Imperial clubs, and, indeed, if I did not think that I might have something to present today a little different from arguments which have already been made, there would be no reason whatever for my addressing you. Many of us can say what I also am able to say, that my children are all descended from the people of the one little Island which contains England and Scotland and Wales. They have not a drop of any other kind of blood in them. I wish they had a little of the other Island alongside, but they have not, and with only this blood in our veins, what could we be but Imperialists? There is not now and there never has been in the history of this country any other course open except Independence, and I think that is an alternative we shall never have to adopt. It is, however, absolutely the only future that is possible to Canadians, except that of remaining in the Empire. We are, indeed, by nature so British that we all have the same splendid vanity about our race that Stevenson describes so delightfully when he makes his British child say

You must dwell beyond the foam, But I am safe and live at home, Little Indian, Sioux or Crow, Little dusky Eskimo, Little Turk, or Japanee, Don't you wish that you were me?

We Canadians have the feeling just as strongly as those at home, that we belong to the Imperial race, and that for some reason or other, not simply the " little Turk or Japanese," but all the other people in the world are different in their physical and mental fibre from us. But to the Englishman I fear we are only a kind of half-breed between the truly British man and the dusky Eskimo. We are not exactly Britons, all wool and a yard wide, in their estimation, and that is really one of the things we have to reckon with. You will hear afterdinner speeches in England at which Imperialism is beautifully talked about, and in which our consanguinity is certainly not denied, but as a matter of fact we are just a little different from a Briton born in the Islands in their estimation. That is why the boast of our loyalty is so often regarded cynically in England. The Englishman feels about our loyalty as Audrey did about the fantastical thing, poetry, when she asks Touchstone, " Is it a true thing?" Are you Canadians really so patriotic and loyal as you pretend, he says, and if so, why are you so? Now, we know that the people in the dependent parts of the Empire and certainly in Canada are as unselfishly loyal as the people in Great Britain. There is no doubt about that whatever, but it is not an easy thing to make an Englishman believe it. Therefore I think it is rather a pity that Mr. Chamberlain's proposals entangle together, as it were, two very different things: One, the binding together of different parts of the Empire, in which, I am sure, he is unselfish and really taking a statesmanlike view, and in the other a kind of trade bargain between Great Britain and the different parts of the Empire.

I am not discussing now, and I shall not hereafter, the question of whether it would be wise for England to make that bargain. I merely intend to state the views of certain British people; but I do now say that to me it seems unfortunate that we come before England, through Mr. Chamberlain, urging, on the one hand, our racial instincts, our love and affection for the British Empire, and our desire because of heredity and a hundred other proper motives, to be held together in the British Empire, and, on the other hand, proposing that we shall get something for our adherence. Now I am sure that as the Executive Officer of a great Bank, and one who is constantly studying the interests of Canada, no one will for a moment doubt that I would be very glad, indeed, if we should get a preference on foodstuffs, or any kind of preferential tariff arrangement with England, but I wish to point out that in this present emergency if anybody's trade is suffering it is the trade of England itself and not Canada, and this is really a question for them more than for us. It is for them to make up their minds as to what is in the interest of England rather than for us. If this involves a concession to the Colonies in the matter of foodstuffs, it will be an excellent thing for us; but we cannot pretend that the progress or future of Canada requires anything of the sort.

I would like to point out to you the conditions in Great Britain, Canada and the United States as they appear to me, and to consider the points of view of Great Britain regarding these conditions, and the reasons why she may conclude to do something different in the way of Imperialism from the proposals of Mr. Chamberlain. If you study the fiscal question in England today you will find that at least four very able pronouncements have already been made: one by Mr. Chamberlain in his speeches, where with a perfectly splendid magnetism he easily succeeds in holding together the people he talks to, and in making them believe almost all he says; one, a collection of arguments by himself and others brought together by Lord Brassey, in which he uses the statistics of the blue books accurately and demonstrates quite to his satisfaction that free trade has been an entire success, that England does not need to do anything whatever along tariff lines, and that Mr. Chamberlain's arguments are entirely fallacious.

Then we have that of Mr. Felix Schuster, one of the ablest bankers in London, in which he takes up the subject from the point of view of London being not merely a free trade centre for merchandise, but for money and gold, and points out what might happen to Great Britain if she lost the position of being the clearing house of the world, which might follow, in his opinion, if she were to give preference to us and defy other nations. But Mr. Schuster has been followed in the Bankers' Institute with an address by Mr. Inglis-Palgrave, a country banker in England, and a gentleman prominent in the leading Society of British Economists. He also uses blue book figures as does Mr. Chamberlain, Lord Brassey and Mr. Felix Schuster, and demonstrates absolutely to his satisfaction that nothing can save Great Britain but the following out of Mr. Chamberlain's proposals.

Some of these writers and many other practical, able and intelligent men, urge that we need a Royal Commission, composed of unprejudiced men who will get together the precise facts as to British trade during the last twenty-five or thirty years and tell us authoritatively what is the matter with it, or if there is anything the matter with it. I think the intelligence of Great Britain will really wait until such a report has been made; but the tendency of thoughtful and able people over there is to believe that it will take an overpowering mass of evidence to induce them to depart from the trade traditions of the last thirty or forty years. When you say to them, What is the matter with your trade? Why have you lost in certain directions? You will now get a frank admission, which was not made very readily three or four years ago, that in the matter of technical skill, not simply of the ordinary workmen, but of the foremen and superintendents, and the sons of wealthy manufacturers who have gone to Oxford and Cambridge, and who do not know anything about their father's business, Great Britain; perhaps because of her prosperity during the last thirty or forty years, has gone behind. If Mr. Chamberlain does nothing more than to convince the people of Great Britain of this, and to get them to enlarge the scope of their universities and schools, and fill the nation full of the idea that they must get into line, great good will be done.

And, again, they will admit that the British workingman, whether because of the Trade Unions or because of his large pay-because he has been well paid and has been a prosperous individual in the last quarter of a century-not only does not do anything like a full day's work, but does not do an intelligent day's work, and drinks a third of what he earns. Many people in Great Britain think if these two things were made right there would be nothing the matter with the trade of Great Britain, and certainly these are two things which must be remedied whether a tariff wall is built around Great Britain, or whether anything is done in the way of preferring the Colonies.

In a place like London most people have one idea at a time, and no particular idea for any length of time, and at the present moment they area great deal more interested in certain practical conditions in front of them than they are in such discussions as Mr. Chamberlain's, which to some of them may seem to have almost an academic character and not to be as urgent as they seem to us. Only in the last four or five months have they felt the full effect of the cost of the war, and Great Britain has had to bear a great deal more than the mere cost of the war. She has had to bear the loss during the same period of the entire output, of the Rand gold mines, and immediately before the war she had been at an enormous expenditure. of capital to very greatly increase the output of those mines, so that while before the war she had an income sometimes of a million and a half sterling a month of new gold from South Africa, she has not more than about two-thirds of that, and she ought to have much more than a million and a half in order to get a return on the capital .expenditure made before the war. If that gold were coming to London and if you found Great Britain rapidly falling into line in the matter of technical skill, I think we should in a very short time find Great Britain absolutely in the van again, as against Germany and the rest of the world.

I could take up certain lines of trade and show where England has already come again to the front, where Americans have gone over there and shown that they had better machinery, and then England has taken her lesson as submissively as an Englishman sometimes does, and has bought the same machinery and established factories and is already doing as well as they are in the United States. The object I have in making these statements regarding Great Britain is to point out that they are not really thinking of Mr. Chamberlain's preferences and of their trade situation in the way we are thinking of it. They may be wrong; perhaps they ought to think as we do, but the point is that Great Britain is not thinking as we are.

When we turn to our own country and the United States--I would like to take them both together--what do we find? The United States is still the great food supplier of Great Britain and Europe. I do not think Englishmen realize-I know I have tried to point it out wherever I have had the opportunity-that the United States now sells foodstuffs, mainly in four or five articles, wheat, Indian corn, oats to some extent, beef and pork, and some pork products. She does not sell in very large quantities much else in foodstuffs. She raises these articles in such huge quantities that she still has a great surplus to sell. These products may in the aggregate increase for a time, but the proportion that is raised to be sold to Europe, relatively to that consumed at home, must from this time forward steadily decline, and it must decline until the time is reached when Canada is helping to feed the United States as well as Europe. I believe that is as true as the statement I ventured to make in 1890 that our North-West would be peopled largely from the United States. But is this an argument for helping out a people who are already so fortunate and so prosperous as to own the best wheat land left in the world?

The Englishman says, Why do you ask for a preference when everything is already going your way? We have to buy from you in any event. What I have said in reply is this: The matter of finding a satisfactory market for our foodstuffs is not the main point. It is necessary to recognize that the United States are after all only buying with what they have to sell; that the purchasing power of the United States, as expressed in what they have to sell, must decline as the exportation of foodstuffs declines. What is going to take the place of that power of purchasing in Europe, which will be lost to the United States by not having foodstuffs to sell? Canada, the Argentine, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, beyond a peradventure, unless the world opens up some new areas. What I say to the Englishman is that it is his business to see that he does not lose that trade of the newer food-supplying nations. Thirty-five years ago we bought 50 percent of all we imported from Great Britain. We had not then a quarter of the purchasing power we have now. Now we buy 50 percent of all our imports from the United States. We have never wished to displace the trade we had with you, and give it to the United States or to any other country. It cannot be our fault that it has been displaced. It must be your fault. Your business is not only to get back that 50 percent, or more, but to get it back as quickly as possible, because as the purchasing power of Canada, Australia, South Africa, the Argentine and such countries increases, it will probably take the place of a declining purchasing power in the United States. This line of argument has not been made very often in England. We have talked a great deal about feeding England in case some other nation would not sell her foodstuffs during a time of war. I do not see anything to fear for England in that. I do not believe the time will ever come when the United States will both fight England and not sell wheat to England directly or indirectly, because if she is prevented by war from selling wheat she will stop fighting.

But the main point of all I have been saying is that whether our own arguments are right or wrong we may not succeed in convincing England, and if we do convince her it may take a long time; it may not be a matter of a year or two; it may be a matter of five or six or ten years. I think this plan of Mr. Chamberlain's is too startling. It is offered to a public of thirty or forty millions, who have not been thinking along the same lines, and very little has been done in a preparatory way, and leading up to such far-reaching proposals. I want to engage your attention for a few minutes along another line of Imperialism, a line that to my mind would lead much more naturally to an Imperial condition than such a proposal as Mr. Chamberlain has made. It seems to me that our own system of government makes the proposals I am about to offer natural and practical. The federations of Canada and Australia are planned upon the idea that there is a Sovereign in Britain who retains certain powers; that the balance of .the powers of government are divided between the Federal Governments and the Governments of the Provinces, which comprise such federations, the main idea being the largest measure of home rule which is compatible with the safety and effective government of the Empire. We, of course, hope that South Africa will soon be such a federation. There can surely be no reason under this system why Canada, Australia and South Africa should not surrender to an Imperial Council point by point certain things that do not interfere with their desire for home rule in other things.

Let me take up the question of a Supreme Court. We have our own Supreme Court, but we still go to the feet of the King when we are dissatisfied, although we are only allowed to go for very important matters in dispute. Why cannot we begin with an Imperial Supreme Court having in it representative judges from Canada and Australia sitting alongside of the English law lords and gradually building up a set of Imperial precedents and thus make us feel in going to the feet of the King, the King being represented in this case by his Committee, that we have a part in that Committee. This would be a most important initial step towards that final Imperialism which we must have some day. I am not an Imperialist unless some day there is to be a parliament in which we shall take our share. I feel certain that when an Imperial Council or Parliament, or whatever it may be, is established sometime in the distant future, which shall guide the destinies of the Empire, we shall have our representatives there and by force of the fact that we shall be sure to know what we want shall take our full share in ruling. We should begin with something that is practical and that is an initial step leading on to that, even if it takes fifty years-I do not expect to see it--but leading inevitably to the time when Great Britain will not be an Imperium in Imperio in the British Empire, but part of a real empire.

Then if we could get the House of Lords to get over its peculiar crochet about the deceased wife's sister why could we not have a universal marriage and divorce law throughout the whole Empire? There is no home rule meaning in that; that is a subject which could safely be given to such an Imperial Council. Then take the question of capital punishment. Is there any reason why the laws with regard to capital punishment should not be the same throughout the British Empire? Could there not be uniformity in judicial systems wherever in the Empire we are dealing with the Anglo-Saxon race? And might this not prevent that decline in the quality of the judiciary which may result from the unwillingness of democracy to pay high salaries. for high-class services. If we could build up in the British Empire a common idea of the administration of justice, a common notion of what justice is, a common faith that justice is certain to be administered whether you are in the Yukon or in Australia, in Toronto or in London, surely that of itself would be a power towards a greater Imperialism.

Then we learn that about a year ago representatives of universities in the different parts of the British Empire met in England, and for what purpose? To see if they could not conform their curricula and various regulations so that postgraduates from the different universities would be accepted at once in other universities. This did not mean only that the graduates of universities throughout the British Empire should be allowed to enter Oxford and Cambridge, or other universities in Great Britain. It meant the reverse process in some cases where scientific and technical education was more advanced in certain outer parts of the British Empire than in Great Britain. What a great advance that would be; what a move it would be towards making us all think along similar lines and appreciate that we have a common history and a common literature.

Then I ventured to say three or four years ago that I thought we ought to imitate the United States in one thing. We ought to have for the Empire coasting laws similar to those of the United States. We ought to have laws under which no goods could be carried from one port to another of the British Empire except in bottoms owned in the British Empire. I was asked at that time if this was really a practical and useful question? If as a matter of fact almost all goods carried from one port of the British Empire to another were not now carried in British bottoms? But a very able gentleman, Mr. Thomson, of Dundee, now takes up that subject and points out how France by subsidizing not only iron and steel, but wooden vessels, is gradually taking England's trade; that she is going out to San Francisco and if she cannot get a cargo there she will run to Adelaide and get it and bring the goods to England, and at the same time take a subsidy from France for doing it. What a great conservator of our present trade position, and of Imperialism, it would be if we should start now and do the same thing as the United States before France and Germany and other countries cut largely into our shipping trade. Why shouldn't we have that simple form of retaliation? Only it is so foolish to use the word "retaliation" at all.

And why can we not have a load line for the whole British Empire which shall apply not only to our own ships, but to all ships loading in British ports? Could we not unite and say that what is good enough for Great Britain is good enough for every port in the British Empire? That is eminently a thing for an Imperial Council to take up. We should also have Imperial laws on other points connected with shipping. I am speaking advisedly now; I spend a large part of my life in dealing with foreign exchange and the shipment of goods. If we could have a uniform bill of lading, a uniform system of marine insurance and a uniform adjustment of marine losses we would have a tremendous advantage against the rest of the world. In both of these things, the shipping and insurance, we would keep up the pre-eminence in the trade of the world that Great Britain has now. She has that pre-eminence now; she does most of the marine insurance and owns most of the ships. What we want today is that all the growth of the British Empire hereafter shall lead in the same direction and that the other countries shall not make in that part of her business the same depredations they have made in her manufactures.

It is, of course, very desirable that all the reciprocal trade arrangements between one Colony and another, or with the Mother Country, that are possible should be made. Success in this respect will naturally lead to a condition in which Mr. Chamberlain's wider proposals would probably be adopted,

I think Great Britain would help in Imperial steamship lines and Imperial cable services even more than she has in the past, and if we could reach a point where the different parts of the British Empire are better connected together in the matter of cable services and steamship lines than all the rest of the world, that would be another great advantage we would have which would be very difficult for the rest of the world to compete with.

Why cannot we have an Imperial penny post and the low rates applying to newspapers? Why is it when we arrange to send -our newspapers to Great Britain, with the least possible restriction, that some high clerk in the British Post Office has power enough to say it is not expedient for Great Britain to send her papers to Canada on the same terms. Do we not complain every day that we get our information about passing events through the United States? And yet when we make the proposal which would deliberately result in our having the London Times on our table instead of or along with the American papers, the answer of some officer in the British Post Office can balk us in our efforts towards Imperialism.

But there remains the question of Imperial Defence. You know, gentlemen, if that question was settled it would be a great deal easier for a Canadian in England to discuss these other questions. It is not pleasant to have nearly every other Englishman, either jocularly or in some less pleasant manner, say that we do not pay our share of the cost of the game. I do not think there is one Englishman in a hundred who has ever considered in detail as to what our share of the cost of the game is. There are a lot of things to be considered before any one can say what our share is. Certainly the long line between us and the United States which we would have to defend ourselves, if the necessity ever arose, should not count. Certainly the fact that we have built and are building trans-continental railways should. Certainly the fact that England's constant wars are not caused by the Colonial federations should be considered. But in any event let us ascertain what our fair share of the cost of Imperial defence is, and having ascertained it let us see whether we can pay it or not. If we cannot pay it let us be a little more humble until the time comes when we can.

There is another matter to which I wish to draw your attention. Perhaps it does not seem to relate to Imperialism and yet I think it does. I wish when the British gentleman's son is through his course at the University he would go, as he does now, on a "grand tour." But that his grand tour would not necessarily be to the south of Europe. I have met a great many Englishmen and Scotchmen, sons of wealthy families, who have gone through the dependent parts of the British Empire, and I have never met one who has not admitted that it is the greatest possible loss to Great Britain, especially to the immediate generation that is coming now, that the young men who are going to have to do with the affairs of Great Britain, whether they be high officials in the state, or men going into various departments of the civil service, or manufacturers or merchants, do not end their university course-and the old idea very properly was that part of a university course was to go and see the world before they settled down--by travelling through the major parts of the British Empire and learning, to some extent, what their heritage is.

As we know, there are no end of misconceptions besides these. We have our hands full before we can make the average Briton a real Imperialist. He talks about it after dinner. There are lots of Imperialists in the newspapers, and in the army and navy, and among writers and publicists, but when you talk to the British manufacturer or merchant or banker he is only an Imperialist after dinner. He is not much of an Imperialist down in the counting-house. They would just as soon deal with Belgium as with us. Indeed, to make them understand that we do not want any favour, but that we do want them to deal with us, all things being equal, is very difficult. It is our business to as far as possible remove these misconceptions. We are apt to blame them, however, for a kind of ignorance that we possess in a large degree ourselves. For instance, we speak of their lack of knowledge of the geography of Canada, but how many of us know much about the geography of Australia. We might be puzzled to say just where Melbourne is, or as to the geography of the Cape. We ourselves want to study all the complicated questions connected with the British Empire and study Great Britain's difficulties; if we are going to be of any help in this great question we want to realize what a terribly complicated question for Great Britain this is; and that education and time for education will inevitably be required.

Finally, what is our goal? Our goal is one flag. I do not take any interest in a special flag for Canada; nor do I desire merely a British flag put up over a dependency, but one flag belonging absolutely to all of us in the British Empire. Then I think we want to feel that some day there will be an Imperial Parliament in which we will take part. I do not care whether this takes ten, twenty-five or fifty years to accomplish. I only care that we shall begin Imperialism so that it shall gradually end in that, because to my mind it means nothing to us if it does not end in that. I would go in for Independence tomorrow if I thought we were simply to have an Imperium in Imperio over in Great Britain, forever. Then we want that kind of coherence throughout the Empire which does not exist as yet; that the fact that we sprung at once to the front and did our best to help in the South African trouble will not be a strange thing for which the Englishman feels that he must thank us. We want that kind of coherence that will make everybody in the Empire instinctively feel that while we do not wish to quarrel with the rest of the world, if the emergency arises we shall be found standing back to back absolutely and indefeasibly against the world.

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Practical Imperialism


Independence as the only future that is possible to Canadians, except that of remaining in the Empire. Ways in which we are by nature British. Ways in which we are not exactly British, especially to the Englishman. The attitude of the Englishman to our loyalty. The unfortunate tangling together of two of Mr. Chamberlain's proposals: the binding together of different parts of the Empire, and a kind of trade bargain between Great Britain and the different parts of the Empire. Stating the views of certain British people. Pointing out to us the conditions in Great Britain, Canada and the United States, as they appear to the speaker, and considering the points of view of Great Britain regarding these conditions, and the reasons why she may conclude to do something different in the way of Imperialism from the proposals of Mr. Chamberlain. A detailed discussion follows. The speaker's object in making these statements regarding Great Britain in order to point out that they are not really thinking of Mr. Chamberlain's preferences and of their trade situation in the way we are thinking of it. Conditions in Canada and the United States in terms of trade. The Englishman's business to see that he does not lose the trade of the newer food-supplying nations. The speaker's belief that Mr. Chamberlain's plan is too startling, and why he thinks it to be so. A proposal from the speaker. The federations of Canada and Australia. The hope that South Africa will soon be such a federation. No reason under this system why Canada, Australia and South Africa should not surrender to an Imperial Council point by point certain things that do not interfere with their desire for home rule in other things. As an example, the question of a Supreme Court. The possibility of a universal marriage and divorce law throughout the whole Empire, and other universal laws such as regards capital punishment. Building up a common idea of the administration of justice, a common notion of what justice is, a common faith that justice is certain to be administered. The notion of a common curriculum in colleges and universities. Imitating the United States by having Empire coasting laws. The desirability that all the reciprocal trade arrangements between one Colony and another, or with the Mother Country, that are possible should be made. Several more suggestions for common interests. The question of Imperial Defence. The suggestion that the "Grade Tour" might include the major parts of the British Empire and learning about one's heritage. Our goal of one flag. The desire for "that kind of coherence that will make everybody in the Empire instinctively feel that while we do not wish to quarrel with the rest of the world, if the emergency arises we shall be found standing back to back absolutely and indefensibly against the world."