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ABOUT OUR EXHIBITION., Issue 8020, 24 September 1889
ABOUT OUR EXHIBITION.
Under the title of “ Reflections in Anticipation of the Half-century Exhibition of the Britain of the South,” a New Zealand contributor to the * Scotsman,’ writing over the signature of “ Peregrines,” sends the following:— There was an exhibition recently in Melbourne collecting all Australasia. The approaching Exhibition in Dunedin is to be essentially of New Zealand, although not exclusively. And now it would he waste of labor to describe simply the things that are sure to be, there, because they have to be everywhere, like the fat woman and the living skeleton—on view for a penny—at a fair. It will be more profitable to speak of common things really important that are suggested by the completion of a halfcentury of growth out of nothing toward nationality of dimensions and forms. There are not a few whose recollections of fifty years ago are quite distinct. Then a French officer was about to take “possession” of this magnificent country, but a British officer slipped in before him, so that Queen Victoria, and not King Louis Philippe, became the Sovereign of the land, and the country became a Britain of the South instead of a Southern Gaul—a consequence which the Natives did not rightly understand till there had been a good deal of war. It is astonishing, when one reflects on it, to see the completeness of the “possession.” Though the occupation of the country will not be completed for many a day, the land not occupied—waste land—is far out of sight, and the land for agriculture, which, as yet, is only a sheep run, does not offend the eye as if it had been “waste and vacuity.” What is really seen here in the common course of observation, in town and country, presents every aspect of maturity that appears in the best - conditioned regions of Britain.
The great gatherings, as we reckon them, are valuable simply as bringing people together, and making them alive to the fact of the existence of one another, and of their all belonging to one another as a whole. In a Scottish parish that was accomplished generations ago, so that everyone is born into the “solidarity” of the community, and his opening exercise of mind is, like Platonic reminiscence, an awakening into consciousness of a tradition of his people, which seems to have come with him out of a previous state of existence. Here the individual is in peril of isolation, such as Mr Auberon Herbert (a politician in trouble about his soul) seems to regard as tho ideally good condition, while Paul apparently (Eph. iv,, 13) looked for full information of manhood from the individual’s being incomporate in society and strenuous in social affections. The local gatherings help to form a man into affection toward his own country side, And such gatherings as the forthcoming Exhibition will occasion will co-operate with Parliamentary elections, etc., in delivering from thenarrowness and shallowness of parochialism by forming men into the patriotic affection of regard for nation. The patriotic affection is important even economically, t.g., for the prevention of log-rolling and other processes through which the nation’s money is misdirected in favor of particular districts. In Parliament the representative of a district whose public works are completed, having no further occasion for that specific mode of disloyalty, becomes a patriot, guarding the public purse against speculation in the interest of other districts. So a philosopher expounded the matter. The interprovincial gatherings occasion thought about economical and political problems which are new in the experience of mankind, and will test the Anglo-Saxon genius for Government land administration. For instance, first, the distinctness of the colonies from one another exposes mankind here to economical evils from which tho American States are guarded by their Zollverein, which makes a vast internal system of Frectrade. Here, as democracy, clever and ignorant, runs into Protection, this and that colony are setting up tariffs avowedly protective to the impoverishment of themselves and others. This points to tho formation of an Australian “Dominion," like that of British America. But that, on account of differences and distances, may be difficult naturally, and it is every day growing into artificial difficulty through widening of those differences.
Behind that there is, second, the question about permanent political Government. The late Mr Forster, in yoar Free Assembly Hall, spoke about some political unity of a Greater Britain, and Professor Seely, in his ' Expansion of England,’ shows that there are in existence important facilitating conditions for the realisation of such an idea. But the thing is quite new, Men have had no experience to guide them, or aid them in confident forecasting. The Athenian “ colonies ” were treated as subjects of the parent State, They mu time 1 when the strain of that theory was put on them in the exigencies of the Peloponnesian war, and the whole lonian and Hellenic fabric collapsed, so that no Demosthenian eloquence conld prevent the subjugation of the free Hellenic peoples to the Macedonian empire. In respect simply to affection, reciprocal between the Mother Country and these colonies, the present state of things is as good as really could be. But perhaps no finite intelligence is capable of foreseeing what may grow out of diversity of interests of local separation, notwithstanding the telegraph and telephone. At present there are material interests which make Imperial unity to be for the colonies of this hemisphere a necessity of safe existence. If the United States were to annex the Dominion, it might not matter very much to Anglo-Saxondom or cosmopolitan philanthropy. But here (1) it is a tenable view that the good of the world requires that Australasia should be held by a “ European nation,” while if it were not for the Imperial connection the Europeans could be swamped at any hour by the “ Heathen Chinee." And (2) there is a very grave complication with other European nations, relatively to the Southern Ocean and its archipelagos, which even the British Empire is finding to involve a difficult problem and a dangerous one.
Civilised Powers have a duty thrown on them simply as the police of humanity, which the existing law of nations does not define, and which, when undefined, is full of peril to the peace of the world. In Alexandria men were being murdered with no effective check on the part of a government, and Britain stepped in, and seems unable to step out (of Northern Africa). But it appears that Britain had some vested right to be the policeman in that case, declining the offered help of France and the United States with thanks. And when Cetewayo was roaming about the border of civilisation in South Africa with 40,000 armed savages, it was clearly Britain’s right to stop him, or, not to put too fine a point on it, extinguish him, so that decent people in South Africa might sleep in quiet. But relatively to the Southern Ocean the matter is far from being so distinct in clear light. When a “ Spanish main ” was proclaimed, the_ English disregarded the pretension of Spain toa sovereignty of the sea, as men would disregard a pretension to sovereignty of the sky. And relatively to the Treaty at the close of the Crimean War excluding Russia from the Mediterranean by the way of Constantinople, it may be reasoned that the restraint thus imposed is artificial, and cannot last; that it is absurd to think of permanently keeping eighty millions of men from that sea passage, which is naturally as open as the air, Similarly, the idea of making the
Southern Ocean a “British main” may seem preposterous. And yet, short of that, the outlook is not clear. Here, quite close to us, is New Caledonia, a penal settlement for French criminals. These convicts, if they escape, take refuge in our colonies. How would you like a man to empty a barrowful of poisonous snakes on the (unfenced) boundary of your garden. And in this case who is to hinder it ?
Of course you have heard the thrilling story of the splendid courage and skill by which, near to this, the Calliope was saved from the Samoan disaster, overtaking German and American war vessels, as well as that cheer given by the sinking Americans true “ hearts of oak to the British survivors. The Natives of the island showed great courage, as well as humanity, in aid of the shipwrecked. (The “ kindness ” in Acts xxviii., 2, is in the Greek philanthropy, which is elsewhere only twice in the New Testament.) They, we believed, had been very ill-treated by the Germans.- Who is to protect such islanders from the ill-treatment of “ European nations ” ? It is a fair suggestion that Britain should claim a sovereignty over the Southern Ocean to the extent of being the policeman in general charge of all. But what will other nations say to it? A joint protectorate might be unworkable here. And if every European nation is to set up here on its own account, then there is sown a plentiful crop of small quarrels between those nations, which may come to be great wars. A protectorate of Britain alone is just a “ British main,” which for commercial purposes might be made open to all nations, but still with Britain in command. The Europeans in Australasia have not physical forcO enough for such a charge, and it remains to be seen whether, with the natural peculiarities of geographical situation, they ever can come to be an adequately forceful political unity of nation. The Greeks, with all their Trojan wars, Olympic games, etc., never grew to be one political Hellenic State. Artemus Ward, in his famous lecture ‘On Ghosts,had not a word to say about ghosts. Similarly, I have not spoiled the text of a meritorious describer of the actual Exhibition by premature disclosure of what it is to be. 1 may, however, mention two things of local interest which ought to be universally known;—(l) Among our local exhibits are to be samples of our fish. The trout about 111b weight is ready. That, I think, is about the weight of one I saw stuffed at Keswick (Derwent Lake) and of eiie 1 saw at Kinross (? Loch Leven). There the weight waS the wonder. Here we could easily get a trout double the weight. It is the stuffing that is the wonder. I never saw anything of the sort so beautiful. It is like a very fine picture of fish by an artist who is a lover of Nature. I was told that the process is an invention of a genius in that craft in Dunedin, If that be you should send for it. (2) It has here been “placed in evidence” that potatoes, if simply left in the ground where they grow, take no harm from the winter’s frost. The deponent, at present a mayor and a ruling elder, was baptised by Dr Burns, of Kilsyth. He ought to be trustworthy. He and others became aware of what he now states when they were gold diggers. They had neglected to dig their potatoes, and imagined that they, of course, were made useless by the winter’s frost. But in spring, when they dug up the ground for new potato planting, they found the old ones fresh and smiling. Here this is important; with you it may not be so. But it may be worth trying the question of fact,
ABOUT OUR EXHIBITION., Issue 8020, 24 September 1889
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