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1906., Southern Cross, Volume 14, Issue 44, 29 December 1906
•The year 1906 has happily been ’unmarked by war, yet it can hardly be said to have been a y e &r of peace. Social unrest has been evident on the 'European Continent, national joalousies have threatened and still threaten war, and the racial antagonisms which threaten to be the greatest difficulty of this century have assumed increased prominence. But the troubles of Russia, in particular, have centred upon her the interests of the civilised world. Last year the conclusion of peace was followed by general revolutionary outbreaks. The Czar seemed at last convinced of the need for reforms ; he announc ed a constitution, and raised M. Witte to the position of premier. Much was hoped from the leadership of Witte, who had before proved himself an able politician and financier, and who assumed office with the prestige won by his successful conduct of the peace negotiasions. But apparently he lacked either the insight to see what radic a l reforms were needed, or the boldness to insist on a free hand in carrying them out. He was hampered on one side by the bureaucracy and on the other by the extreme reformers, and the hopes of those who had believed in his liberalism and his political capacity were disappointed. Finally the Czar dismissed him and made M. Goremykin premier. The closing da.ys of 1905 had witnessed .civil war in Moscow, the ancient stronghold of Russian monarchy. The opening of 1906 saw the revolutionaries crushed. In spite of much disaffection and some serious mutinies, the army as -a whole remained faithful to the government, and this being so the cause of the revolutionaries, wanting funds, arms, and skilled leaders, was hopeless from the beginning. Since January the forces of insurrection seem to have been paralysed. Strikes, mutinies, riots, and assassinations have been frequent, and again, as last year, agents of the bureaucrats haw sought to find a safety valve for popular discontent by inflaming the ignorant masses against the Jews. So far Russia has produced no leader capable of organising and guiding the people. On both rides a striking want of political ability is evident. In 1905 the Czar had agreed to the summoning of the Duma, or representative parliament. .The method of electing representatives was carefully arranged so to allow as little weight ar possible to the -"unintelligents,” or educated middle classes. The peasants showed little interest in the elections, seeming distrustful of the genuineness of the reforms offered them. At length the Duma was duly elected, and met in May, the Czar opening it in parson. The Duma was in no true sense representative' o. the nation. Many of its members were illiterate, and little political ability was manifest in its deliberations- But spite of the care taken in dra\wing it from the most ignorant and conservatative strata of the population, it was plain from the first that it was wholly antagonistic to the ancient system which the Czar, encouraged by the failure of the armed outbreak, still hoped to preserve. In truth some of the demands of the Duma were so extreme that n o Government with the strength still remaining to the Czar’s could be expected to grant them. It demanded an amnesty for all offences against the government, the abolition of capital punishment, adult suffrage, and the expropriation of great landlords to divide their estates among the peasants. Finally, in July, the Czar dissolved the Duma, at the same time ordering the convocation of a new one in March, 1907. M. Garemykin was at the same time dismissed, and M. Stolypin made premier. Just at this time the interparliamentary conference of the world met in London, twenty-one being represented, and among them the Duma. The civilised world has been watching with keen interest the Russians who are struggling not not always wisely or well, but self devotedly to win for their land the liberties already possessed by other European peoples. England, the home of liberty, and the mother of parliamentary institutions, watches the struggle with especial interest Englishmen feel, too, that a free and enlightened Russia would no longer be the encroaching and aggressive power the Russia enslaved has been. Since the dissolution of thp Duma little of political signifi-* cance has taken place in Russia. But the revolution is not dead. The Czar and his bureaucrats are fightagainst the spirit of the age, which must at length bring Russia into a line with the other democracies of Europe. On the whole, the
prospects for the world's peace have improved during the year. The Alaeciaras conference, summoned to adjust the conflicting interests of Prance and Spain in Morocco, was brought to a satisfactory termination. A dispute with Turkey over the boundaries of British and Turkish territory in the Suez peninsula was terminated by a naval demonstration on the part of Britain and by Germany, making it plain to the Sultan that he must not depend on German support. During the year some progress has been made in the cultivation of better relations with Germany. The best feeling of both nations is against jingoism and Irritating parade of that suspicion that reads sinister designs into every action of the other. With the progress of democracy the feeling against war is steadily gaining ground, though it is yet too early for any nation to neglect the possibility of having at any moment to defend its interests by the. old appeal to force. In Central America an insignificant war between the republics of Guatemala and San Salvador was soon brought to a close. Cuba has been in an unsettled condition, and order was only restored through the intervention of the United States. The colony of Natal has had to contend with a serious native rising, due mainly to what seems to have been very injudicious actions in imposing a poll tax on the natives. Fortunately the blacks were never able to win any success which might have encouraged them to prolongued resistance. Prompt and energetic action was taken by the Natal authorities, and after two or three engagements, which were slaughters rather than battles, the rebellion was extinguished. In Britain the year has been signalised by the Liberal triumph at the elections in January. The CampbellBannerman ministry, formed at the close of last year, returned to office with increased strength, and during, the year has accomplished much legislation which will leave its mark on the history of the Empire. The n®w Education Bill was after a protracted contest passed by the House of Commons. After months of debate the Lords returned the Bill to the Commons with such alteration as to ’defeat its aim. The Government refused to proceed with it, and Parliament has been prorogued. The contest will be renewed next year. This episode will strengthen the feeling long gaining ground that the Lords possess over great powers of obstruction, and this temporary triumph of the Conservatives may be dearly paid for. The Government has meanwhile been grappling with the question of unemployment, has been framing a Land Bill, and has provided for the feeding of needy school children. Its refusal to consider the question of woman suffrage has been a bitter disappointment to ardent advocates of woman’s political rights, though it is understood that the question is only deferred until what the Government considers more important questions; have been dealt with. The most noticeable achievement of the session has been the accordance of full rights of selfgovernment to the Transvaal. The Orange colony is to receive a constitution on similar lines. It is to be hoped that the confidence thus shown in the peoples of the annexed territories will reconcile them to British rule. Among- interesting events of the year has been the marriage of Princess Ena to King Alphonso of Spain. This was unhappily marked by an atrocious attempt to assassinate the royal pair, which, though unsuccessful, resulted in much los's of life. Others have been the mission of Prince Arthur of Connaught to Japan to convey the decoration of the Garter to the Mikado, and the final reparation made to Captain Dreyfus in promoting him and making him a chevalier of the Legion of Honour. In New Zealand the one political event outshadowing all others has been the tragically sudden death of Mr Seddon. His triumphant success at the late elections had proved the country’s confidence in him, and it might have been expected that many years of successful political activity lay before him when he was suddenly called away. Sir Joseph Ward, hastily recalled from England, reconstructed the ministry and assumed the premiership. The most conspicious feature of the subsequent session was the bringing forward of a new Land Bill by the Government, but this met with such strong opposition that it was withdrawn till next year. In Australia the Federal elections, which seem to arouse little interest, are just being concluded. It seems likely that the late state of Parties will be little altered, and that Mr Deakin will continue to hold
the Federal premiership. The year has been remarkable for the frequency and magnitude of natural convulsions and other disasters. In March the most destructive colliery explosion on record took place at Courrieres in France, 200 miners being entombed. In April t-he world was horror-struck by the tidings of the destruction by earthquake and fire of San Francisco, and in August Valparaiso met with a like fate. In April Vesuvius was in violent eruption —villages were overwhelmed, and persons killed even in the streets of Naples. Earthquakes in Formosa, and hurricanes and tidal waves in the Pacific islands, the China Sea and the Gulf of Mexico caused widespread destruction and suffering, and large districts of China and Russia have been a prey to famine. Pur colonies have been free from great destruction, though fires were unusually destructive in Australia last summer, and Wellington has suffered from one of the most extensive fires s-nce the founding of the city. The obituary for the year contains the names of King Christian of Denmark, father of Queen Alexandr a ; the celebrated Norwegian dramatist, Ibsen ; J. L. Toole, the veteran comedian ; Mrs Craigie, better known by her “pen name” of Aohn Oliver Hobbes ; Sir Wilfrid Lawson, the noted Liberal politician ; and Sir Walter Duller. The year, on the whole, has been one of gveat prosperity for Australia and New Zealand. Prices have been well maintained, and evidences of progress abound on every side. Very much has been done to improve Invercargill. The fine New Theatre and Town Hall have been completed and opened ; the new technical school has been finished, and the girls’ high school nearly so ; while so many improvements have been made in the business parts of the town as quite to alter the aspect of some localities. The Exhibition at Christchurch, in the success of which the late Mr Sedclon was so warmly interested, bids fair to be as great a success in attracting visitors and advertising the colony as he hoped it to be. We have good reason in these .closing days of the year, to be filled with thankfulness for the past, and to greet the new year with hope and confidence in the destinies of our own land, and of the great Empire of which we form a part.
1906., Southern Cross, Volume 14, Issue 44, 29 December 1906
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