MANAGEMENT OF THE COLONIES.
Lyttelton Times, Volume V, Issue 298, 8 September 1855, Page 6
MANAGEMENT OF THE COLONIES.
(From the " Times.")
Lord Derby has our thanks for calliug the public attention once more to the condition of the Colonial Secretaryship. We will be bound to say there never was anything: so wanton in power or so capricious in auarchy as the way in which our fifty colonies and dependencies are treated at this moment. We are aware that colonies never want to be told that they are ill-used—they find it out fast enough, and to import a grierance into them, is (to carry coals to Newcastle. That, however, is not our business. We do not sit here to represent the mother country, and to keep up appearances with the Colonies, but to bring the lightjand aid of public opinion to bear upon the whole of the British empire. In behalf of our colonies we must say that they are very shamefully handled. It is only a few t months ago that the force of public opinion separated the Colonial Secretaryship from the Ministry of war, and, after we'have iwept and garnished the Secretaryship, its last state is worse than its first. The War Minister has been exercised, but the Minister Plenipotentiary, at Vienna has taken his place. Ihe tail lias oniy been taken off one kite to be tied to another. The colonies, besides some little affairs of their own in the shape of wars and rebellions, which, perhaps, it would be too much to expect us to attend to except when quite convenient, have lately been set to work making their own constitutions. It was arranged that when a colony hail agreed upon a constitution it was to be sent to the Col.mkl-office for approval, and it has already occurred to many people as a misfortune, though unavoidable, that a popular act so critical and ?o important as a constitution should be subjected to the delay of many months, in its passive to and fro across the globe, before it could be finally ratified and confirmed. To that necessity we have superadded a most gratuitous injustice. The constitution, with all other colonial business, is to arrive in town, to find nobody authorised to deal with it, or so much ns to open the packet in which it .is contained. Supposing that to he managed, it is to follow in the wake of Lord John Russell's journey to Vienna, and find Is Ira negotiating with half-a-dozen Pienijmtentiark-«, all at cross purposes, about the affair vi Eastern Europe, the Holy Places, the
Black Sea, the Danubian Principalities, and the Protectorate of the Greek Church. We admit that it is an immense addition to Lord John Bussell's importance, and probably to his weight in the Conference, that he should be known to have fifty colonies on his hands. On this view it would be as well that the titles of the colonies should be tacked to his name in all the documents connected with the negotiation. What an imposing title is that which one comes upon in Portugese affairs—" the Patriarch of the ♦ Indies!'" There are no Indies, at least no Portuguese Indies for the man to be Patriarch of, so " Minister 'of the British Colonies " would be a vastly superior and a more substantial title. We read that when Antony with the Queen of Egypt went a progress through the east, there were always a dozen kings in his train, and as many more waiting his arrival at the end of his day's journey. It would conduce vastly to the prestige of our Plenipotentiary if the deputies of Victoria, the Council of New Zealand, the members of the Jamaica Assembly, Canadian agents, or Ceylon proprietors, were always dogging his steps, crowding his anti-rooms, thrusting constitutions into his hands, or throwing them into his carriage windows. How the natives would stare at the man who could fill up the interstices of a difficult negotiation with the cares of half the world ! It is true that, apart from the consideration of our Colonies, the Congress itself would have an odd look. One of the Emperors concerned in its institution has quitted the scene ; if another should go to the Crimea, while the representative of another power should have his mind in fifty other places all over the world, there would at least be an equality of illconditions favourable to the balance of power. But the speculation, of a good end by bad means is always hazardous, and, at the risk of making one leg of the table stronger than the rest, we would rather Lord John Russell had only the affairs of Europe on his hands. But, then, what is to be done with the Colonies, especially the more lively aud growing ones ? They are like boys shooting up into young men, just at the time when the father has no money to send them to school, or to do anything else with them. The young Titans are frightfully precocious and aggressive. You cannot put them to bed, as nursemaids do little children when they want to go out for the evening. When gentlemen arrive in London brimful of Colonial importance, and ask for the Colonial Secretary, what a thing that they should be told he is at Vienna, waiting till Europe is pacified ! Homer tells us that when the Greeks had made a great sacrifice, and offered up a multitude of prayers, nothing could be done just then because the gods had gone inio Ethiopia ; and we read somewhere also of a deity who could not bear prayers because he was on a journey. But of all persons to be on a journey the centre of the colonial system is about the most inconvenient. How would the planets be off if the Sun were to abscond, nobody knew where, for an unknown period of time? Had Lord John Russell held the office when he started, we should have advised the Colonies to apply for a wrung exeat regno ; but Lord Pahnerston has sent the Colonies after Lord John, aud these great coinnniuities find themselves conferred in commen* dam on an absent Plenipotentiary. But there is an explanation. There always is an explanation, and the explanation is always satisfactory. Lord John Russell is not expected to be long away. He has only just gone to settle the basis of a treaty, and when he has iaid the foundation an inferior artist is to proceed with the superstructure, and work out the details. Should he not succeed as to the " basis," the negotiation will be soon broken off, and in that case, also, we shall have Lord John among us, or rather among the Colonies. All this is the language of hope, or of despair. We should be very sorry to charge ourselves with the payment of a considerable annuity till the declaration of peace, or even till the breaking off of the negotiations. Everybody seems to think it his interegt to fight and to negotiate at the same time —to wield the sword in the right hand, and the pen in the left. Meanwhile we are told Sir George Grey can do. the Home-office and the Colonies together, as he is at home in both departments. Yet he is but an invalid, 'and his predecessor in the Home-office did not find it too little to occupy his time. He notoriously concentrated his attention on one or two more important and interesting topics, and left the rest to get on as itcould. But this explanation only excutes oue ministerial plurality by another,
and substitute* a private arrangement for a public absurdity. The Colonies, just detached from the War Minister, have been given ostensibly to a diplomatist to be governed really hy the Secretary of State for the Home Department. There is a fatal* : want of .simplicity in these arrangements, that rather looks like taking liberties with the constitution and trifling with the people. Indeed, it is only another illustration of the process which Mr. Cobdeu calls finding a horse 100 weak to draw a cart,and putting another horse to draw both. In this instance there is something more, for the new horse has his own work. Lord John Russell must draw the Colonies, so the whole team is to he tied behind Sir George Grey in the shafts of the Home-office, and the two ministers, the Home-office, the fifty colonies, and the Congress of Vienna, are all to draggle on in one tangle. This explanation may or may not satisfy Parliament, but we feel sure it will not satisfy the colonies. If they find that their government is a sinecure, a mere Duchy of Lancaster, a light appendage to another office, they will consider what they gain by such a connexion. They have had King Stork in the shape of some arbitrary secretaries and worrying subordinates. They will now think they have King Log, after all the least respectable of the two. The only proper explanation is to remove the scandal at once, by giving each mail his own work, in deed as well as in name, and keeping him to it, so that we may know who is answerable for it.