Where tendencies, not events, are being considered, divisions by time must, in the nature of things, be somewhat rough and arbitrary. No one can say the exact hour when the is found pointing in a particular direction. Moreover, it must be confessed that during the time we have been considering there was already much of the spirit abroad which we have called laissez-aller. Note the language of Sir F. Rogers 1 in 1854. Speaking of a “Legislative declaration of Independence on the part of the Australian Colonies,” 2 he goes on, “The successive Secretaries of State have been bidding for popularity with them by offering to let them have their own way…. What remains to complete colonial independence except command of the land and sea forces I don’t quite see. I shall be interested to see what comes of it. It is a great pity that, give as much as you will, you can’t please the colonists with anything short of absolute independence, so that it is not easy to say how you are to accomplish what we are, I suppose, all looking to, the eventual parting company on good terms.” The view, which regards the granting of complete self-government to the Colonies, as part of a general policy of cutting them adrift, has been already noted. In 1872 Mr Disraeli asserted that “there had been no effort so continuous, so subtle, supported by so much energy, and carried on with so much ability and acumen, as the attempt of Liberalism to effect the disintegration of the British Empire.” “Those subtle views,” he alleged, “were adopted by the country under the plausible plea of granting self-government.” 3 The attempt has been already made to vindicate the memory of 362Lord John Russell on this question, and we have seen how complete was, in fact, the continuity of policy amongst statesmen of both the great parties. Nor was Mr Disraeli very clear in his suggestions as to what British policy should have been. “Self-government … ought to have been conceded as part of a great policy of Imperial consolidation. It ought to have been accompanied by an Imperial tariff, by securities for the people of England for the enjoyment of unappropriated lands … and by a military code, which should have precisely defined the means and the responsibilities by which the Colonies should be defended, and by which, if necessary, this country should call for aid from the Colonies themselves.” Now, with regard to an Imperial tariff, if what was meant was an Imperial zollverein, of course much might have been said for such a policy. It was not, however, through indifference to the Colonies, but because, rightly or wrongly, English public opinion was in favour of simple free trade, that such a policy was not adopted. But if it be meant that the Mother country should have dictated to the Colonies their fiscal policy, then there is little doubt but that such a course would have wrecked the Empire. In fact, it was strenuously advocated 1 by the Whig doctrinaire, Lord Grey, and its inexpediency was clearly shown by one who had himself been a Tory Under Secretary for the Colonies. With regard to the Land question, we have already seen that all English statesmen started with the firm intention to retain the control of the Crown lands in the hands of the Mother country, but the practical difficulties in the way proved insurmountable, 2 and, in fact, it was a Tory Secretary of State who first yielded on this point to the colonial demands.

The genesis of laissez-aller view on Colonial Policy.