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COLONIES OF ENGLAND:
THE GOVERNMENT OF SOME PORTION
JOHN ARTHUR ROEBUCK, M.P.
A land there lies
In the truth of the main conclusions which the following work seeks to establish, I have myself a most sincere and earnest faith; but I cannot hope that, to others, they will appear equally correct; neither do I expect that my plan will be at once adopted, and followed. There are so many interests, fancied and real, opposed to every reform in our colonial management—there is so much ignorance (I must be pardoned the word) respecting everything connected with our Colonies, that no plan could be devised which would not, on the instant of its promulgation, be met with a storm of violent abuse. Some would be angry because a profitable abuse was pointed out for extirpation; some, because the means of a fancied benefit were to be removed; others, because a real advantage would erroneously be deemed in danger; and lastly, all the timid, all those who hate chanoe because it is change, would be in arms against the plan. For all this opposition I am prepared, and shall be delighted to experience it. What I most dread is, that my scheme may be assumed to be impossible, because it appears large, and be at once laid aside, with the favourite phrase of official condemnation—"impracticable;” and that being so put by, my proposals, and my reasons, may be together forgotten.
The effect of my proposed scheme would, I allow, be great; but the real objection to it, on the part of official people, will be, that it leaves them, and their office, very little to do. It would take from them the power of meddling—of which, for the most part, their functions now consist.
But I earnestly entreat my countrymen to draw a broad distinction between the interests of the Colonial Office and of England. The men of a particular office naturally endeavour to make that office important. In the case of the Colonial Office, the means of doing this have been unfortunately large, but mischievous. It was easy to find pretexts for interfering with the affairs of the Colonies; it was very difficult to make interference anything but an evil to the colony, and thereby to England. On this topic, however, I will not enlarge. My work is not written for the purpose of prosecuting a quarrel with the Colonial Office, but solely for the purpose of explaining a plan of proceeding which I sincerely believe would, if adopted, be greatly serviceable to the Colonies, and to the mother country; and I mention the Colonial Office now simply in order to ask those who read the following pages to leave that office, and all that it contains, wholly out of consideration while they are discussing with me the subject of the Colonies.
Throughout my work I have carefully abstained from all discussion of any actually existing grievance or dispute in any colony. My conclusions rest on large results. The petty squabbles of petty people I have no desire to mix in. But wishing to deal with systems, I have sought for results in the history of colonization; from that history—from the teaching and experience of centuries, my deductions are made, and on that foundation, my proposals rest.
In the more general conclusions to which my examination of the past has led me, as I have already said, I have great confidence. This plan, however, while it is based on these general propositions, contains many specific details. In these my faith is by no means so great. They are, without doubt, in many instances, imperfect, and susceptible of great improvement. I hope, however, the candid reader will not permit himself “ to stick in the incidents,” but go at once to the principle, lay hold of, and abide by it. Let us make this step, and I have no fear of conquering all difficulty of detail.