Montreal Daily Star, 24 October 1896, page 6
The true basis of British Unity.
Every now and then something occurs which we are told has extinguished the movement for British unity, or, at least, has put a quietus upon it for a time. Now it will be the speech of a politician; to-morrow the action of a colony in some domestic question; and again an article in a leading newspaper.
Those who accept these melancholy inferences little understand the nature of the movement which is carrying the British peoples in all parts of the world closer together. It is not a rush of emotion, nor is it due to any great extent to the fine sentiment of a common patriotism. It rests rather upon the instinct of self-preservation, which is a force that can only cease to strive when the life of it fights for is extinct. Britons are realizing more and more that, as the world grows smaller under the contracting pressure of steam and electricity, and as the great powers of Europe are engaged in a competitive struggle for room for national expansion, they cannot permit the Empire to fall to pieces without exposing the fragments and particularly the smaller ones—to the danger that threatens all defenceless people with fat purses found loitering on a lawless highway. We have civilized certain sections of our earth, and supplied them with electric lights and police; but the broad highway of the world on whch the nations tread is still largely a lawless and savage domain. We have a code governing the initiation and prosecution of war; but war resulting in conquest is still perfectly possible, and, in an international sense, legal. There is nothing, save the mutual jealousies of the strong, to guarantee a moment’s life to the weak. And were the British Empire to dissolve, al the members of it, with the exception of the British Isles, would be conspicuously weak in a military sense.
It is the realization of just this simple fact that makes the body of the movement for British unity. The leaders amongst us have always agreed in saying that the “status quo” could not stand still. We must move either toward disruption or toward consolidation, and there is now precious little difference of opinion anywhere under the flag as to the direction that this development should take. Few are wedded to any pet scheme; and most regard an attack upon a scheme, not as an assault upon the principle, but as a part of that wholesome discussion which must thoroughly test any scheme before the fortunes of the Empire are permitted to rest upon its shoulders.
The main hindrance at present appears to be a delusion entertained by most sections of the Empire that it will be possible for them to drive a bargain with the other members in which they will get, not only profit, but the lion’s share of it. This is of course, most unlikely; and even if successful, would introduce into the fabric the sure seed of decay. Profit gained in this way might bring in the end the severest loss; but as it is difficult to make statesmen out of politicians, so it is difficult to get those politicians to give up bargaining and engage in a search for a just foundation on which to rest a new Empire. Yet it must come to that before we shall succeed; and if the spirit of loyalty does not lead us to it gladly, the threat of outside hostility will some day drive us to it in fear.