The Expansion of Europe - The Culmination of Modern History
by Ramsay Muir
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The purpose of this book is twofold.

We realise to-day, as never before, that the fortunes of the world, and of every individual in it, are deeply affected by the problems of world-politics and by the imperial expansion and the imperial rivalries of the greater states of Western civilisation. But when men who have given no special attention to the history of these questions try to form a sound judgment on them, they find themselves handicapped by the lack of any brief and clear resume of the subject. I have tried, in this book, to provide such a summary, in the form of a broad survey, unencumbered with detail, but becoming fuller as it comes nearer to our own time. That is my first purpose. In fulfilling it I have had to cover much well-trodden ground. But I hope I have avoided the aridity of a mere compendium of facts.

My second purpose is rather more ambitious. In the course of my narrative I have tried to deal with ideas rather than with mere facts. I have tried to bring out the political ideas which are implicit in, or which result from, the conquest of the world by Western civilisation; and to show how the ideas of the West have affected the outer world, how far they have been modified to meet its needs, and how they have developed in the process. In particular I have endeavoured to direct attention to the significant new political form which we have seen coming into existence, and of which the British Empire is the oldest and the most highly developed example—the world-state, embracing peoples of many different types, with a Western nation-state as its nucleus. The study of this new form seems to me to be a neglected branch of political science, and one of vital importance. Whether or not it is to be a lasting form, time alone will show. Finally I have tried to display, in this long imperialist conflict, the strife of two rival conceptions of empire: the old, sterile, and ugly conception which thinks of empire as mere domination, ruthlessly pursued for the sole advantage of the master, and which seems to me to be most fully exemplified by Germany; and the nobler conception which regards empire as a trusteeship, and which is to be seen gradually emerging and struggling towards victory over the more brutal view, more clearly and in more varied forms in the story of the British Empire than in perhaps any other part of human history. That is why I have given a perhaps disproportionate attention to the British Empire. The war is determining, among other great issues, which of these conceptions is to dominate the future.

In its first form this book was completed in the autumn of 1916; and it contained, as I am bound to confess, some rather acidulated sentences in the passages which deal with the attitude of America towards European problems. These sentences were due to the deep disappointment which most Englishmen and most Frenchmen felt with the attitude of aloofness which America seemed to have adopted towards the greatest struggle for freedom and justice ever waged in history. It was an indescribable satisfaction to be forced by events to recognise that I was wrong, and that these passages of my book ought not to have been written as I wrote them. There is a sort of solemn joy in feeling that America, France, and Britain, the three nations which have contributed more than all the rest of the world put together to the establishment of liberty and justice on the earth, are now comrades in arms, fighting a supreme battle for these great causes. May this comradeship never be broken. May it bring about such a decision of the present conflict as will open a new era in the history of the world—a world now unified, as never before, by the final victory of Western civilisation which it is the purpose of this book to describe.

Besides rewriting and expanding the passages on America, I have seized the opportunity of this new issue to alter and enlarge certain other sections of the book, notably the chapter on the vital period 1878-1900, which was too slightly dealt with in the original edition. In this work, which has considerably increased the size of the book, I have been much assisted by the criticisms and suggestions of some of my reviewers, whom I wish to thank.

Perhaps I ought to add that though this book is complete in itself, it is also a sort of sequel to a little book entitled Nationalism and Internationalism, and was originally designed to be printed along with it: that is the explanation of sundry footnote references. The two volumes are to be followed by a third, on National Self-government, and it is my hope that the complete series may form a useful general survey of the development of the main political factors in modern history.

In its first form the book had the advantage of being read by my friend Major W. L. Grant, Professor of Colonial History at Queen's University Kingston, Ontario. The pressure of the military duties in which he is engaged has made it impossible for me to ask his aid in the revision of the book.

R. M. July 1917


Preface I. The Meaning and the Motives of Imperialism II. The Era of Iberian Monopoly III. The Rivalry of the Dutch, the French, and the English, 1588-1763 (a) The Period of Settlement, 1588-1660 (b) The Period of Systematic Colonial Policy, 1660-1713 (c) The Conflict of French and English, 1713-1763 IV. The Era of Revolution, 1763-1825 V. Europe and the Non-European World, 1815-1878 VI. The Transformation of the British Empire, 1815-1878 VII. The Era of the World States, 1878-1900 VIII. The British Empire amid the World-Powers, 1878-1914 IX. The Great Challenge, 1900-1914 X. What of the Night?



One of the most remarkable features of the modern age has been the extension of the influence of European civilisation over the whole world. This process has formed a very important element in the history of the last four centuries, and it has been strangely undervalued by most historians, whose attention has been too exclusively centred upon the domestic politics, diplomacies, and wars of Europe. It has been brought about by the creation of a succession of 'Empires' by the European nations, some of which have broken up, while others survive, but all of which have contributed their share to the general result; and for that reason the term 'Imperialism' is commonly employed to describe the spirit which has led to this astonishing and world-embracing movement of the modern age.

The terms 'Empire' and 'Imperialism' are in some respects unfortunate, because of the suggestion of purely military dominion which they convey; and their habitual employment has led to some unhappy results. It has led men of one school of thought to condemn and repudiate the whole movement, as an immoral product of brute force, regardless of the rights of conquered peoples. They have refused to study it, and have made no endeavour to understand it; not realising that the movement they were condemning was as inevitable and as irresistible as the movement of the tides—and as capable of being turned to beneficent ends. On the other hand, the implications of these terms have perhaps helped to foster in men of another type of mind an unhealthy spirit of pride in mere domination, as if that were an end in itself, and have led them to exult in the extension of national power, without closely enough considering the purposes for which it was to be used. Both attitudes are deplorable, and in so far as the words 'Empire,' 'Imperial,' and 'Imperialism' tend to encourage them, they are unfortunate words. They certainly do not adequately express the full significance of the process whereby the civilisation of Europe has been made into the civilisation of the world.

Nevertheless the words have to be used, because there are no others which at all cover the facts. And, after all, they are in some ways entirely appropriate. A great part of the world's area is inhabited by peoples who are still in a condition of barbarism, and seem to have rested in that condition for untold centuries. For such peoples the only chance of improvement was that they should pass under the dominion of more highly developed peoples; and to them a European 'Empire' brought, for the first time, not merely law and justice, but even the rudiments of the only kind of liberty which is worth having, the liberty which rests upon law. Another vast section of the world's population consists of peoples who have in some respects reached a high stage of civilisation, but who have failed to achieve for themselves a mode of organisation which could give them secure order and equal laws. For such peoples also the 'Empire' of Western civilisation, even when it is imposed and maintained by force, may bring advantages which will far outweigh its defects. In these cases the word 'Empire' can be used without violence to its original significance, and yet without apology; and these cases cover by far the greater part of the world.

The words 'Empire' and 'Imperialism' come to us from ancient Rome; and the analogy between the conquering and organising work of Rome and the empire-building work of the modern nation-states is a suggestive and stimulating analogy. The imperialism of Rome extended the modes of a single civilisation, and the Reign of Law which was its essence, over all the Mediterranean lands. The imperialism of the nations to which the torch of Rome has been handed on, has made the Reign of Law, and the modes of a single civilisation, the common possession of the whole world. Rome made the common life of Europe possible. The imperial expansion of the European nations has alone made possible the vision—nay, the certainty—of a future world-order. For these reasons we may rightly and without hesitation continue to employ these terms, provided that we remember always that the justification of any dominion imposed by a more advanced upon a backward or disorganised people is to be found, not in the extension of mere brute power, but in the enlargement and diffusion, under the shelter of power, of those vital elements in the life of Western civilisation which have been the secrets of its strength, and the greatest of its gifts to the world: the sovereignty of a just and rational system of law, liberty of person, of thought, and of speech, and, finally, where the conditions are favourable, the practice of self-government and the growth of that sentiment of common interest which we call the national spirit. These are the features of Western civilisation which have justified its conquest of the world[1]; and it must be for its success or failure in attaining these ends that we shall commend or condemn the imperial work of each of the nations which have shared in this vast achievement.

[1] See the first essay in Nationalism and Internationalism, in which an attempt is made to work out this idea.

Four main motives can be perceived at work in all the imperial activities of the European peoples during the last four centuries. The first, and perhaps the most potent, has been the spirit of national pride, seeking to express itself in the establishment of its dominion over less highly organised peoples. In the exultation which follows the achievement of national unity each of the nation-states in turn, if the circumstances were at all favourable, has been tempted to impose its power upon its neighbours,[2] or even to seek the mastery of the world. From these attempts have sprung the greatest of the European wars. From them also have arisen all the colonial empires of the European states. It is no mere coincidence that all the great colonising powers have been unified nation-states, and that their imperial activities have been most vigorous when the national sentiment was at its strongest among them. Spain, Portugal, England, France, Holland, Russia: these are the great imperial powers, and they are also the great nation-states. Denmark and Sweden have played a more modest part, in extra-European as in European affairs. Germany and Italy only began to conceive imperial ambitions after their tardy unification in the nineteenth century. Austria, which has never been a nation-state, never became a colonising power. Nationalism, then, with its eagerness for dominion, may be regarded as the chief source of imperialism; and if its effects are unhappy when it tries to express itself at the expense of peoples in whom the potentiality of nationhood exists, they are not necessarily unhappy in other cases. When it takes the form of the settlement of unpeopled lands, or the organisation and development of primitive barbaric peoples, or the reinvigoration and strengthening of old and decadent societies, it may prove itself a beneficent force. But it is beneficent only in so far as it leads to an enlargement of law and liberty.

[2] Nationalism and Imperialism, pp. 60, 64, 104.

The second of the blended motives of imperial expansion has been the desire for commercial profits; and this motive has played so prominent a part, especially in our own time, that we are apt to exaggerate its force, and to think of it as the sole motive. No doubt it has always been present in some degree in all imperial adventures. But until the nineteenth century it probably formed the predominant motive only in regard to the acquisition of tropical lands. So long as Europe continued to be able to produce as much as she needed of the food and the raw materials for industry that her soil and climate were capable of yielding, the commercial motive for acquiring territories in the temperate zone, which could produce only commodities of the same type, was comparatively weak; and the European settlements in these areas, which we have come to regard as the most important products of the imperialist movement, must in their origin and early settlement be mainly attributed to other than commercial motives. But Europe has always depended for most of her luxuries upon the tropics: gold and ivory and gems, spices and sugar and fine woven stuffs, from a very early age found their way into Europe from India and the East, coming by slow and devious caravan routes to the shores of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Until the end of the fifteenth century the European trader had no direct contact with the sources of these precious commodities; the supply of them was scanty and the price high. The desire to gain a more direct access to the sources of this traffic, and to obtain control of the supply, formed the principal motive for the great explorations. But these, in their turn, disclosed fresh tropical areas worth exploiting, and introduced new luxuries, such as tobacco and tea, which soon took rank as necessities. They also brought a colossal increment of wealth to the countries which had undertaken them. Hence the acquisition of a share in, or a monopoly of, these lucrative lines of trade became a primary object of ambition to all the great states. In the nineteenth century Europe began to be unable to supply her own needs in regard to the products of the temperate zone, and therefore to desire control over other areas of this type; but until then it was mainly in regard to the tropical or sub-tropical areas that the commercial motive formed the predominant element in the imperial rivalries of the nation-states. And even to-day it is over these areas that their conflicts are most acute.

A third motive for imperial expansion, which must not be overlooked, is the zeal for propaganda: the eagerness of virile peoples to propagate the religious and political ideas which they have adopted. But this is only another way of saying that nations are impelled upon the imperial career by the desire to extend the influence of their conception of civilisation, their Kultur. In one form or another this motive has always been present. At first it took the form of religious zeal. The spirit of the Crusaders was inherited by the Portuguese and the Spaniards, whose whole history had been one long crusade against the Moors. When the Portuguese started upon the exploration of the African coast, they could scarcely have sustained to the end that long and arduous task if they had been allured by no other prospect than the distant hope of finding a new route to the East. They were buoyed up also by the desire to strike a blow for Christianity. They expected to find the mythical Christian empire of Prester John, and to join hands with him in overthrowing the infidel. When Columbus persuaded Queen Isabella of Castile to supply the means for his madcap adventure, it was by a double inducement that he won her assent: she was to gain access to the wealth of the Indies, but she was also to be the means of converting the heathen to a knowledge of Christianity; and this double motive continually recurs in the early history of the Spanish Empire. France could scarcely, perhaps, have persisted in maintaining her far from profitable settlements on the barren shores of the St. Lawrence if the missionary motive had not existed alongside of the motives of national pride and the desire for profits: her great work of exploration in the region of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley was due quite as much to the zeal of the heroic missionaries of the Jesuit and other orders as to the enterprise of trappers and traders. In English colonisation, indeed, the missionary motive was never, until the nineteenth century, so strongly marked. But its place was taken by a parallel political motive. The belief that they were diffusing the free institutions in which they took so much pride certainly formed an element in the colonial activities of the English. It is both foolish and unscientific to disregard this element of propaganda in the imperialist movement, still more to treat the assertion of it by the colonising powers as mere hypocrisy. The motives of imperial expansion, as of other human activities, are mixed, and the loftier elements in them are not often predominant. But the loftier elements are always present. It is hypocrisy to pretend that they are alone or even chiefly operative. But it is cynicism wholly to deny their influence. And of the two sins cynicism is the worse, because by over-emphasising it strengthens and cultivates the lower among the mixed motives by which men are ruled.

The fourth of the governing motives of imperial expansion is the need of finding new homes for the surplus population of the colonising people. This was not in any country a very powerful motive until the nineteenth century, for over-population did not exist in any serious degree in any of the European states until that age. Many of the political writers in seventeenth-century England, indeed, regarded the whole movement of colonisation with alarm, because it seemed to be drawing off men who could not be spared. But if the population was nowhere excessive, there were in all countries certain classes for which emigration to new lands offered a desired opportunity. There were the men bitten with the spirit of adventure, to whom the work of the pioneer presented an irresistible attraction. Such men are always numerous in virile communities, and when in any society their numbers begin to diminish, its decay is at hand. The imperial activities of the modern age have more than anything else kept the breed alive in all European countries, and above all in Britain. To this type belonged the conquistadores of Spain, the Elizabethan seamen, the French explorers of North America, the daring Dutch navigators. Again, there were the younger sons of good family for whom the homeland presented small opportunities, but who found in colonial settlements the chance of creating estates like those of their fathers at home, and carried out with them bands of followers drawn from among the sons of their fathers' tenantry. To this class belonged most of the planter-settlers of Virginia, the seigneurs of French Canada, the lords of the great Portuguese feudal holdings in Brazil, and the dominant class in all the Spanish colonies. Again, there were the 'undesirables' of whom the home government wanted to be rid—convicts, paupers, political prisoners; they were drafted out in great numbers to the new lands, often as indentured servants, to endure servitude for a period of years and then to be merged in the colonial population. When the loss of the American colonies deprived Britain of her dumping-ground for convicts, she had to find a new region in which to dispose of them; and this led to the first settlement of Australia, six years after the establishment of American independence. Finally, in the age of bitter religious controversy there was a constant stream of religious exiles seeking new homes in which they could freely follow their own forms of worship. The Puritan settlers of New England are the outstanding example of this type. But they were only one group among many. Huguenots from France, Moravians from Austria, persecuted 'Palatines' and Salzburgers from Germany, poured forth in an almost unbroken stream. It was natural that they should take refuge in the only lands where full religious freedom was offered to them; and these were especially some of the British settlements in America, and the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope.

It is often said that the overflow of Europe over the world has been a sort of renewal of the folk-wandering of primitive ages. That is a misleading view: the movement has been far more deliberate and organised, and far less due to the pressure of external circumstances, than the early movements of peoples in the Old World. Not until the nineteenth century, when the industrial transformation of Europe brought about a really acute pressure of population, can it be said that the mere pressure of need, and the shortage of sustenance in their older homes, has sent large bodies of settlers into the new lands. Until that period the imperial movement has been due to voluntary and purposive action in a far higher degree than any of the blind early wanderings of peoples. The will-to-dominion of virile nations exulting in their nationhood; the desire to obtain a more abundant supply of luxuries than had earlier been available, and to make profits therefrom; the zeal of peoples to impose their mode of civilisation upon as large a part of the world as possible; the existence in the Western world of many elements of restlessness and dissatisfaction, adventurers, portionless younger sons, or religious enthusiasts: these have been the main operative causes of this huge movement during the greater part of the four centuries over which it has extended. And as it has sprung from such diverse and conflicting causes, it has assumed an infinite variety of forms; and both deserves and demands a more respectful study as a whole than has generally been given to it.



During the Middle Ages the contact of Europe with the rest of the world was but slight. It was shut off by the great barrier of the Islamic Empire, upon which the Crusades made no permanent impression; and although the goods of the East came by caravan to the Black Sea ports, to Constantinople, to the ports of Syria, and to Egypt, where they were picked up by the Italian traders, these traders had no direct knowledge of the countries which were the sources of their wealth. The threat of the Empire of Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century aroused the interest of Europe, and the bold friars, Carpini and Rubruquis, made their way to the centres of that barbaric sovereign's power in the remote East, and brought back stories of what they had seen; later the Poli, especially the great Marco, undertook still more daring and long-continued journeys, which made India and Cathay less unreal to Europeans, and stimulated the desire for further knowledge. The later mediaeval maps of the world, like that of Fra Mauro (1459),[3] which incorporate this knowledge, are less wildly imaginative than their predecessors, and show a vague notion of the general configuration of the main land-masses in the Old World. But beyond the fringes of the Mediterranean the world was still in the main unknown to, and unaffected by, European civilisation down to the middle of the fifteenth century.

[3] Simplified reproductions of this and the other early maps alluded to are printed in Philip's Students' Atlas of Modern History, which also contains a long series of maps illustrating the extra-Europeans activities of the European states.

Then, suddenly, came the great era of explorations, which were made possible by the improvements in navigation worked out during the fifteenth century, and which in two generations incredibly transformed the aspect of the world. The marvellous character of this revelation can perhaps be illustrated by the comparison of two maps, that of Behaim, published in 1492, and that of Schoener, published in 1523. Apart from its adoption of the theory that the earth was globular, not round and flat, Behaim's map shows little advance upon Fra Mauro, except that it gives a clearer idea of the shape of Africa, due to the earlier explorations of the Portuguese. But Schoener's map shows that the broad outlines of the distribution of the land-masses of both hemispheres were already in 1523 pretty clearly understood. This astonishing advance was due to the daring and enterprise of the Portuguese explorers, Diaz, Da Gama, Cabral, and of the adventurers in the service of Spain, Columbus, Balboa, Vespucci, and—greatest of them all—Magellan.

These astonishing discoveries placed for a time the destinies of the outer world in the hands of Spain and Portugal, and the first period of European imperialism is the period of Iberian monopoly, extending to 1588. A Papal award in 1493 confirmed the division of the non-European world between the two powers, by a judgment which the orthodox were bound to accept, and did accept for two generations. All the oceans, except the North Atlantic, were closed to the navigators of other nations; and these two peoples were given, for a century, the opportunity of showing in what guise they would introduce the civilisation of Europe to the rest of the globe. Pioneers as they were in the work of imperial development, it is not surprising that they should have made great blunders; and in the end their foreign dominions weakened rather than strengthened the home countries, and contributed to drag them down from the high place which they had taken among the nations.

The Portuguese power in the East was never more than a commercial dominion. Except in Goa, on the west coast of India, no considerable number of settlers established themselves at any point; and the Goanese settlement is the only instance of the formation of a mixed race, half Indian and half European. Wherever the Portuguese power was established, it proved itself hard and intolerant; for the spirit of the Crusader was ill-adapted to the establishment of good relations with the non-Christian peoples. The rivalry of Arab traders in the Indian Ocean was mercilessly destroyed, and there was as little mercy for the Italian merchants, who found the stream of goods that the Arabs had sent them by way of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf almost wholly intercepted. No doubt any other people, finding itself in the position which the Portuguese occupied in the early sixteenth century, would have been tempted to use their power in the same way to establish a complete monopoly; but the success with which the Portuguese attained their aim was in the end disastrous to them. It was followed by, if it did not cause, a rapid deterioration of the ability with which their affairs were directed; and when other European traders began to appear in the field, they were readily welcomed by the princes of India and the chieftains of the Spice Islands. In the West the Portuguese settlement in Brazil was a genuine colony, or branch of the Portuguese nation, because here there existed no earlier civilised people to be dominated. But both in East and West the activities of the Portuguese were from the first subjected to an over-rigid control by the home government. Eager to make the most of a great opportunity for the national advantage, the rulers of Portugal allowed no freedom to the enterprise of individuals. The result was that in Portugal itself, in the East, and in Brazil, initiative was destroyed, and the brilliant energy which this gallant little nation had displayed evaporated within a century. It was finally destroyed when, in 1580, Portugal and her empire fell under the dominion of Spain, and under all the reactionary influences of the government of Philip II. By the time this heavy yoke was shaken off, in the middle of the seventeenth century, the Portuguese dominion had fallen into decay. To-day nothing of it remains save 'spheres of influence' on the western and eastern coasts of Africa, two or three ports on the coast of India, the Azores, and the island of Magao off the coast of China.

The Spanish dominion in Central and South America was of a different character. When once they had realised that it was not a new route to Asia, but a new world, that Columbus had discovered for them, the Spaniards sought no longer mainly for the riches to be derived from traffic, but for the precious metals, which they unhappily discovered in slight quantities in Hispaniola, but in immense abundance in Mexico and Peru. It is impossible to exaggerate the heroic valour and daring of Cortez, Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, Orellana, and the rest of the conquistadores who carved out in a single generation the vast Spanish empire in Central and South America; but it is equally impossible to exaggerate their cruelty, which was born in part of the fact that they were a handful among myriads, in part of the fierce traditions of crusading warfare against the infidel. Yet without undervaluing their daring, it must be recognised that they had a comparatively easy task in conquering the peoples of these tropical lands. In the greater islands of the West Indies they found a gentle and yielding people, who rapidly died out under the forced labour of the mines and plantations, and had to be replaced by negro slave-labour imported from Africa. In Mexico and Peru they found civilisations which on the material side were developed to a comparatively high point, and which collapsed suddenly when their governments and capitals had been overthrown; while their peoples, habituated to slavery, readily submitted to a new servitude. It must be recognised, to the honour of the government of Charles V. and his successors, that they honestly attempted to safeguard the usages and possessions of the conquered peoples, and to protect them in some degree against the exploitation of their conquerors. But it was the protection of a subject race doomed to the condition of Helotage; they were protected, as the Jews were protected by the kings of mediaeval England, because they were a valuable asset of the crown. The policy of the Spanish government did not avail to prevent an intermixture of the races, because the Spaniards themselves came from a sub-tropical country, and the Mexicans and Peruvians especially were separated from them by no impassable gulf such as separates the negro or the Australian bushman from the white man. Central and Southern America thus came to be peopled by a hybrid race, speaking Spanish, large elements of which were conscious of their own inferiority. This in itself would perhaps have been a barrier to progress. But the concentration of attention upon the precious metals, and the neglect of industry due to this cause and to the employment of slave-labour, formed a further obstacle. And in addition to all, the Spanish government, partly with a view to the execution of its native policy, partly because it regarded the precious metals as the chief product of these lands and wished to maintain close control over them, and partly because centralised autocracy was carried to its highest pitch in Spain, allowed little freedom of action to the local governments, and almost none to the settlers. It treated the trade of these lands as a monopoly of the home country, to be carried on under the most rigid control. It did little or nothing to develop the natural resources of the empire, but rather discouraged them lest they should compete with the labours of the mine; and in what concerned the intellectual welfare of its subjects, it limited itself, as in Spain, to ensuring that no infection of heresy or freethought should reach any part of its dominions. All this had a deadening effect; and the surprising thing is, not that the Spanish Empire should have fallen into an early decrepitude, but that it should have shown such comparative vigour, tenacity, and power of expansion as it actually exhibited. Not until the nineteenth century did the vast natural resources of these regions begin to undergo any rapid development; that is to say, not until most of the settlements had discarded the connection with Spain; and even then, the defects bred into the people by three centuries of reactionary and unenlightened government produced in them an incapacity to use their newly won freedom, and condemned these lands to a long period of anarchy. It would be too strong to say that it would have been better had the Spaniards never come to America; for, when all is said, they have done more than any other people, save the British, to plant European modes of life in the non-European world. But it is undeniable that their dominion afforded a far from happy illustration of the working of Western civilisation in a new field, and exercised a very unfortunate reaction upon the life of the mother-country.

The conquest of Portugal and her empire by Philip II., in 1580, turned Spain into a Colossus bestriding the world, and it was inevitable that this world-dominion should be challenged by the other European states which faced upon the Atlantic. The challenge was taken up by three nations, the English, the French, and the Dutch, all the more readily because the very existence of all three and the religion of two of them were threatened by the apparently overwhelming strength of Spain in Europe. As in so many later instances, the European conflict was inevitably extended to the non-European world. From the middle of the sixteenth century onwards these three peoples attempted, with increasing daring, to circumvent or to undermine the Spanish power, and to invade the sources of the wealth which made it dangerous to them; but the attempt, so far as it was made on the seas and beyond them, was in the main, and for a long time, due to the spontaneous energies of volunteers, not to the action of governments. Francis I. of France sent out the Venetian Verazzano to explore the American shores of the North Atlantic, as Henry VII. of England had earlier sent the Genoese Cabots. But nothing came of these official enterprises. More effective were the pirate adventurers who preyed upon the commerce between Spain and her possessions in the Netherlands as it passed through the Narrow Seas, running the gauntlet of English, French, and Dutch. More effective still were the attempts to find new routes to the East, not barred by the Spanish dominions, by a north-east or a north-west passage; for some of the earlier of these adventures led to fruitful unintended consequences, as when the Englishman Chancellor, seeking for a north-east passage, found the route to Archangel and opened up a trade with Russia, or as when the Frenchman Cartier, seeking for a north-west passage, hit upon the great estuary of the St. Lawrence, and marked out a claim for France to the possession of the area which it drained. Most effective of all were the smuggling and piratical raids into the reserved waters of West Africa and the West Indies, and later into the innermost penetralia of the Pacific Ocean, which were undertaken with rapidly increasing boldness by the navigators of all three nations, but above all by the English. Drake is the supreme exponent of these methods; and his career illustrates in the clearest fashion the steady diminution of Spanish prestige under these attacks, and the growing boldness and maritime skill of its attackers.

From the time of Drake's voyage round the world (1577) and its insulting defiance of the Spanish power on the west coast of South America, it became plain that the maintenance of Spanish monopoly could not last much longer. It came to its end, finally and unmistakably, in the defeat of the Grand Armada. That supreme victory threw the ocean roads of trade open, not to the English only, but to the sailors of all nations. In its first great triumph the English navy had established the Freedom of the Seas, of which it has ever since been the chief defender. Since 1588 no power has dreamt of claiming the exclusive right of traversing any of the open seas of the world, as until that date Spain and Portugal had claimed the exclusive right of using the South Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Indian Oceans.

So ends the first period in the imperial expansion of the Western peoples, the period of Spanish and Portuguese monopoly. Meanwhile, unnoticed in the West, a remarkable eastward expansion was being effected by the Russian people. By insensible stages they had passed the unreal barrier between Europe and Asia, and spread themselves thinly over the vast spaces of Siberia, subduing and assimilating the few and scattered tribes whom they met; by the end of the seventeenth century they had already reached the Pacific Ocean. It was a conquest marked by no great struggles or victories, an insensible permeation of half a continent. This process was made the easier for the Russians, because in their own stock were blended elements of the Mongol race which they found scattered over Siberia: they were only reversing the process which Genghis Khan had so easily accomplished in the thirteenth century. And as the Russians had scarcely yet begun to be affected by Western civilisation, there was no great cleavage or contrast between them and their new subjects, and the process of assimilation took place easily. But the settlement of Siberia was very gradual. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the total population of this vast area amounted to not more than 300,000 souls, and it was not until the nineteenth century that there was any rapid increase.



The second period of European imperialism was filled with the rivalries of the three nations which had in different degrees contributed to the breakdown of the Spanish monopoly, the Dutch, the French, and the English; and we have next to inquire how far, and why, these peoples were more successful than the Spaniards in planting in the non-European world the essentials of European civilisation. The long era of their rivalry extended from 1588 to 1763, and it can be most conveniently divided into three sections. The first of these extended from 1588 to about 1660, and may be called the period of experiment and settlement; during its course the leadership fell to the Dutch. The second extended from 1660 to 1713, and may be called the period of systematic colonial policy, and of growing rivalry between France and England. The third, from 1713 to 1763, was dominated by the intense rivalry of these two countries, decadent Spain joining in the conflict on the side of France, while the declining power of the Dutch was on the whole ranged on the side of Britain; and it ended with the complete ascendancy of Britain, supreme at once in the West and in the East.

(a) The Period of Settlement, 1588-1660

The special interest of the first half of the seventeenth century is that in the trading and colonial experiments of this period the character of the work which was to be done by the three new candidates for extra-European empire was already very clearly and instructively displayed. They met as rivals in every field: in the archipelago of the West Indies, and the closely connected slaving establishments of West Africa, in the almost empty lands of North America, and in the trading enterprises of the far East; and everywhere a difference of spirit and method appeared.

The Dutch, who made a far more systematic and more immediately profitable use of the opportunity than either of their rivals, regarded the whole enterprise as a great national commercial venture. It was conducted by two powerful trading corporations, the Company of the East Indies and the Company of the West Indies; but though directed by the merchants of Amsterdam, these were genuinely national enterprises; their shareholders were drawn from every province and every class; and they were backed by all the influence which the States-General of the United Provinces—controlled during this period mainly by the commercial interest—was able to wield.

The Company of the East Indies was the richer and the more powerful of the two, because the trade of the Far East was beyond comparison the most lucrative in the world. Aiming straight at the source of the greatest profits—the trade in spices—the Dutch strove to establish a monopoly control over the Spice Islands and, in general, over the Malay Archipelago; and they were so successful that their influence remains to-day predominant in this region. Their first task was to overthrow the ascendancy of the Portuguese, and in this they were willing to co-operate with the English traders. But the bulk of the work was done by the Dutch, for the English East India Company was poor in comparison with the Dutch, was far less efficiently organised, and, in especial, could not count upon the steady support of the national government. It was mainly the Dutch who built forts and organised factories, because they alone had sufficient capital to maintain heavy standing charges. Not unnaturally they did not see why the English should reap any part of the advantage of their work, and set themselves to establish a monopoly. In the end the English were driven out with violence. After the Massacre of Amboyna (1623) their traders disappeared from these seas, and the Dutch supremacy remained unchallenged until the nineteenth century.

It was a quite intolerant commercial monopoly which they had instituted, but from the commercial point of view it was administered with great intelligence. Commercial control brought in its train territorial sovereignty, over Java and many of the neighbouring islands; and this sovereignty was exercised by the directors of the company primarily with a view to trade interests. It was a trade despotism, but a trade despotism wisely administered, which gave justice and order to its native subjects. On the mainland of India the Dutch never attained a comparable degree of power, because the native states were strong enough to hold them in check. But in this period their factories were more numerous and more prosperous than those of the English, their chief rivals; and over the island of Ceylon they established an ascendancy almost as complete as that which they had created in the archipelago.

They were intelligent enough also to see the importance of good calling-stations on the route to the East. For this purpose they planted a settlement in Mauritius, and another at the Cape of Good Hope. But these settlements were never regarded as colonies. They were stations belonging to a trading company; they remained under its complete control, and were allowed no freedom of development, still less any semblance of self-government. If Cape Colony grew into a genuine colony, or offshoot of the mother-country, it was in spite of the company, not by reason of its encouragement, and from first to last the company's relations with the settlers were of the most unhappy kind. For the company would do nothing at the Cape that was not necessary for the Eastern trade, which was its supreme interest, and the colonists naturally did not take the same view. It was this concentration upon purely commercial aims which also prevented the Dutch from making any use of the superb field for European settlement opened up by the enterprise of their explorers in Australia and New Zealand. These fair lands were left unpeopled, largely because they promised no immediate trade profits.

In the West the enterprises of the Dutch were only less vigorous than in the East, and they were marked by the same feature of an intense concentration upon the purely commercial aspect. While the English and (still more) the French adventurers made use of the lesser West Indian islands, unoccupied by Spain, as bases for piratical attacks upon the Spanish trade, the Dutch, with a shrewd instinct, early deserted this purely destructive game for the more lucrative business of carrying on a smuggling trade with the Spanish mainland; and the islands which they acquired (such as Curayoa) were, unlike the French and English islands, especially well placed for this purpose. They established a sugar colony in Guiana. But their main venture in this region was the conquest of a large part of Northern Brazil from the Portuguese (1624); and here their exploitation was so merciless, under the direction of the Company of the West Indies, that the inhabitants, though they had been dissatisfied with the Portuguese government, and had at first welcomed the Dutch conquerors, soon revolted against them, and after twenty years drove them out.

On the mainland of North America the Dutch planted a single colony—the New Netherlands, with its capital at New Amsterdam, later New York. Their commercial instinct had once more guided them wisely. They had found the natural centre for the trade of North America; for by way of the river Hudson and its affluent, the Mohawk, New York commands the only clear path through the mountain belt which everywhere shuts off the Atlantic coast region from the central plain of America. Founded and controlled by the Company of the West Indies, this settlement was intended to be, not primarily the home of a branch of the Dutch nation beyond the seas, but a trading-station for collecting the furs and other products of the inland regions. At Orange (Albany), which stands at the junction of the Mohawk and the Hudson, the Dutch traders collected the furs brought in by Indian trappers from west and north; New Amsterdam was the port of export; and if settlers were encouraged, it was only that they might supply the men and the means and the food for carrying on this traffic. The Company of the West Indies administered the colony purely from this point of view. No powers of self-government were allowed to the settlers; and, as in Cape Colony, the relations between the colonists and the governing company were never satisfactory, because the colonists felt that their interests were wholly subordinated.

The distinguishing feature of French imperial activity during this period was its dependence upon the support and direction of the home government, which was the natural result of the highly centralised regime established in France during the modern era. Only in one direction was French activity successfully maintained by private enterprise, and this was in the not very reputable field of West Indian buccaneering, in which the French were even more active than their principal rivals and comrades, the English. The word 'buccaneer' itself comes from the French: boucan means the wood-fire at which the pirates dried and smoked their meat, and these fires, blazing on deserted islands, must often have warned merchant vessels to avoid an ever-present danger. The island of Tortuga, which commands the passage between Cuba and Hispaniola through which the bulk of the Spanish traffic passed on its way from Mexico to Europe, was the most important of the buccaneering bases, and although it was at first used by the buccaneers of all nations, it soon became a purely French possession, as did, later, the adjoining portion of the island of Hispaniola (San Domingo). The French did, indeed, like the English, plant sugar colonies in some of the lesser Antilles; but during the first half of the seventeenth century they attained no great prosperity.

For the greater enterprises of trade in the East and colonisation in the West, the French relied almost wholly upon government assistance, and although both Henry IV. in the first years of the century, and Richelieu in its second quarter, were anxious to give what help they could, internal dissensions were of such frequent occurrence in France during this period that no systematic or continuous governmental aid was available. Hence the French enterprises both in the East and in the West were on a small scale, and achieved little success. The French East India Company was all but extinct when Colbert took it in hand in 1664; it was never able to compete with its Dutch or even its English rival.

But the period saw the establishment of two French colonies in North America: Acadia (Nova Scotia) on the coast, and Canada, with Quebec as its centre, in the St. Lawrence valley, separated from one another on land by an almost impassable barrier of forest and mountain. These two colonies were founded, the first in 1605 and the second in 1608, almost at the same moment as the first English settlement on the American continent. They had a hard struggle during the first fifty years of their existence; for the number of settlers was very small, the soil was barren, the climate severe, and the Red Indians, especially the ferocious Iroquois towards the south, were far more formidable enemies than those who bordered on the English colonies.

There is no part of the history of European colonisation more full of romance and of heroism than the early history of French Canada; an incomparable atmosphere of gallantry and devotion seems to overhang it. From the first, despite their small numbers and their difficulties, these settlers showed a daring in exploration which was only equalled by the Spaniards, and to which there is no parallel in the records of the English colonies. At the very outset the great explorer Champlain mapped out the greater part of the Great Lakes, and thus reached farther into the continent than any Englishman before the end of the eighteenth century; and although this is partly explained by the fact that the St. Lawrence and the lakes afforded an easy approach to the interior, while farther south the forest-clad ranges of the Alleghanies constituted a very serious barrier, this does not diminish the French pre-eminence in exploration. Nor can anything in the history of European colonisation surpass the heroism of the French missionaries among the Indians, who faced and endured incredible tortures in order to bring Christianity to the barbarians. No serious missionary enterprise was ever undertaken by the English colonists; this difference was in part due to the fact that the missionary aim was definitely encouraged by the home government in France. From the outset, then, poverty, paucity of numbers, gallantry, and missionary zeal formed marked features of the French North American colonies.

In other respects they very clearly reproduced some of the features of the motherland. Their organisation was strictly feudal in character. The real unit of settlement and government was the seigneurie, an estate owned by a Frenchman of birth, and cultivated by his vassals, who found refuge from an Indian raid, or other danger, in the stockaded house which took the place of a chateau, much as their remote ancestors had taken refuge from the raids of the Northmen in the castles of their seigneur's ancestors. And over this feudal society was set, as in France, a highly centralised government wielding despotic power, and in its turn absolutely subject to the mandate of the Crown at home. This despotic government had the right to require the services of all its subjects in case of need; and it was only the centralised government of the colony, and the warlike and adventurous character of its small feudalised society, which enabled it to hold its own for so long against the superior numbers but laxer organisation of its English neighbours. A despotic central power, a feudal organisation, and an entire dependence upon the will of the King of France and upon his support, form, therefore, the second group of characteristics which marked the French colonies. They were colonies in the strictest sense, all the more because they reproduced the main features of the home system.

Nothing could have differed more profoundly from this system than the methods which the English were contemporaneously applying, without plan or clearly defined aim, and guided only by immediate practical needs, and by the rooted traditions of a self-governing people. Their enterprises received from the home government little direct assistance, but they throve better without it; and if there was little assistance, there was also little interference. In the East the English East India Company had to yield to the Dutch the monopoly of the Malayan trade, and bitterly complained of the lack of government support; but it succeeded in establishing several modest factories on the coast of India, and was on the whole prosperous. But it was in the West that the distinctive work of the English was achieved during this period, by the establishment of a series of colonies unlike any other European settlements which had yet been instituted. Their distinctive feature was self-government, to which they owed their steadily increasing prosperity. No other European colonies were thus managed on the principle of autonomy. Indeed, these English settlements were in 1650 the only self-governing lands in the world, apart from England herself, the United Provinces, and Switzerland.

The first English colony, Virginia, was planted in 1608 by a trading company organised for the purpose, whose subscribers included nearly all the London City Companies, and about seven hundred private individuals of all ranks. Their motives were partly political ('to put a bit in the ancient enemy's (Spain's) mouth'), and partly commercial, for they hoped to find gold, and to render England independent of the marine supplies which came from the Baltic. But profit was not their sole aim; they were moved also by the desire to plant a new England beyond the seas. They made, in fact, no profits; but they did create a branch of the English stock, and the young squires' and yeomen's sons who formed the backbone of the colony showed themselves to be Englishmen by their unwillingness to submit to an uncontrolled direction of their affairs. In 1619, acting on instructions received from England, the company's governor summoned an assembly of representatives, one from each township, to consult on the needs of the colony. This was the first representative body that had ever existed outside Europe, and it indicated what was to be the character of English colonisation. Henceforth the normal English method of governing a colony was through a governor and an executive council appointed by the Crown or its delegate, and a representative assembly, which wielded full control over local legislation and taxation. 'Our present happiness,' said the Virginian Assembly in 1640, 'is exemplified by the freedom of annual assemblies and by legal trials by juries in all civil and criminal causes.'

The second group of English colonies, those of New England, far to the north of Virginia, reproduced in an intensified form this note of self-government. Founded in the years following 1620, these settlements were the outcome of Puritan discontents in England. The commercial motive was altogether subsidiary in their establishment; they existed in order that the doctrine and discipline of Puritanism might find a home where its ascendancy would be secure. It was indeed under the guise of a commercial company that the chief of these settlements was made, but the company was organised as a means of safe-guarding the colonists from Crown interference, and at an early date its headquarters were transferred to New England itself. Far from desiring to restrict this freedom, the Crown up to a point encouraged it. Winthrop, one of the leading colonists, tells us that he had learnt from members of the Privy Council 'that his Majesty did not intend to impose the ceremonies of the Church of England upon us; for that it was considered that it was the freedom from such things that made people come over to us.' The contrast between this licence and the rigid orthodoxy enforced upon French Canada or Spanish America is very instructive. It meant that the New World, so far as it was controlled by England, was to be open as a place of refuge for those who disliked the restrictions thought necessary at home. The same note is to be found in the colony of Maryland, planted by the Roman Catholic Lord Baltimore in 1632, largely as a place of refuge for his co-religionists. He was encouraged by the government of Charles I. in this idea, and the second Lord Baltimore reports that his father 'had absolute liberty to carry over any from his Majesty's Dominions willing to go. But he found very few but such as ... could not conform to the laws of England relating to religion. These declared themselves willing to plant in this province, if they might have a general toleration settled by law.' Maryland, therefore, became the first place in the world of Western civilisation in which full religious toleration was allowed; for the aim of the New Englanders was not religious freedom, but a free field for the rigid enforcement of their own shade of orthodoxy.

Thus, in these first English settlements, the deliberate encouragement of varieties of type was from the outset a distinguishing note, and the home authorities neither desired nor attempted to impose a strict uniformity with the rules and methods existing in England. There was as great a variety in social and economic organisation as in religious beliefs between the aristocratic planter colonies of the south and the democratic agricultural settlements of New England. In one thing only was there uniformity: every settlement possessed self-governing institutions, and prized them beyond all other privileges. None, indeed, carried self-government to so great an extent as the New Englanders. They came out organised as religious congregations, in which every member possessed equal rights, and they took the congregational system as the basis of their local government, and church membership as the test of citizenship; nor did any other colonies attain the right, long exercised by the New Englanders, of electing their own governors. But there was no English settlement, not even the little slave-worked plantations in the West Indian islands, like Barbados, which did not set up, as a matter of course, a representative body to deal with problems of legislation and taxation, and the home government never dreamt of interfering with this practice. Already in 1650, the English empire was sharply differentiated from the Spanish, the Dutch, and the French empires by the fact that it consisted of a scattered group of self-governing communities, varying widely in type, but united especially by the common possession of free institutions, and thriving very largely because these institutions enabled local needs to be duly considered and attracted settlers of many types.

(b) The Period of Systematic Colonial Policy, 1660-1713

The second half of the seventeenth century was a period of systematic imperial policy on the part of both England and France; for both countries now realised that in the profitable field of commerce, at any rate, the Dutch had won a great advantage over them.

France, after many internal troubles and many foreign wars, had at last achieved, under the government of Louis XIV., the boon of firmly established order. She was now beyond all rivalry the greatest of the European states, and her king and his great finance minister, Colbert, resolved to win for her also supremacy in trade and colonisation. But this was to be done absolutely under the control and direction of the central government. Until the establishment of the German Empire, there has never been so marked an instance of the centralised organisation of the whole national activity as France presented in this period. The French East India Company was revived under government direction, and began for the first time to be a serious competitor for Indian trade. An attempt was made to conquer Madagascar as a useful base for Eastern enterprises. The sugar industry in the French West Indian islands was scientifically encouraged and developed, though the full results of this work were not apparent until the next century. France began to take an active share in the West African trade in slaves and other commodities. In Canada a new era of prosperity began; the population was rapidly increased by the dispatch of carefully selected parties of emigrants, and the French activity in missionary work and in exploration became bolder than ever. Pere Marquette and the Sieur de la Salle traced out the courses of the Ohio and the Mississippi; French trading-stations began to arise among the scattered Indian tribes who alone occupied the vast central plain; and a strong French claim was established to the possession of this vital area, which was not only the most valuable part of the American continent, but would have shut off the English coastal settlements from any possibility of westward expansion. These remarkable explorations led, in 1717, to the foundation of New Orleans at the mouth of the great river, and the organisation of the colony of Louisiana. But the whole of the intense and systematic imperial activity of the French during this period depended upon the support and direction of government; and when Colbert died in 1683, and soon afterwards all the resources of France were strained by the pressure of two great European wars, the rapid development which Colbert's zeal had brought about was checked for a generation. Centralised administration may produce remarkable immediate results, but it does not encourage natural and steady growth. Meanwhile the English had awakened to the fact that England had, almost by a series of accidents, become the centre of an empire, and to the necessity of giving to this empire some sort of systematic organisation. It was the statesmen of the Commonwealth who first began to grope after an imperial system. The aspect of the situation which most impressed them was that the enterprising Dutch were reaping most of the trading profits which arose from the creation of the English colonies: it was said that ten Dutch ships called at Barbados for every English ship. To deal with this they passed the Navigation Act of 1651, which provided that the trade of England and the colonies should be carried only in English or colonial ships. They thus gave a logical expression to the policy of imperial trade monopoly which had been in the minds of those who were interested in colonial questions from the outset; and they also opened a period of acute trade rivalry and war with the Dutch. The first of the Dutch wars, which was waged by the Commonwealth, was a very even struggle, but it secured the success of the Navigation Act. Cromwell, though he hastened to make peace with the Dutch, was a still stronger imperialist than his parliamentary predecessors; he may justly be described as the first of the Jingoes. He demanded compensation from the Dutch for the half-forgotten outrage of Amboyna in 1623. He made a quite unprovoked attack upon the Spanish island of Hispaniola, and though he failed to conquer it, gained a compensation in the seizure of Jamaica (1655). And he insisted upon the obedience of the colonies to the home government with a severity never earlier shown. With him imperial aims may be said to have become, for the first time, one of the ruling ends of the English government.

But it was the reign of Charles II. which saw the definite organisation of a clearly conceived imperial policy; in the history of English imperialism there are few periods more important. The chief statesmen and courtiers of the reign, Prince Rupert, Clarendon, Shaftesbury, Albemarle, were all enthusiasts for the imperial idea. They had a special committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Plantations,[4] and appointed John Locke, the ablest political thinker of the age, to be its secretary. They pushed home the struggle against the maritime ascendancy of the Dutch, and fought two Dutch wars; and though the history-books, influenced by the Whig prejudice against Charles II., always treat these wars as humiliating and disgraceful, while they treat the Dutch war of the Commonwealth as just and glorious, the plain fact is that the first Dutch war of Charles II. led to the conquest of the Dutch North American colony of the New Netherlands (1667), and so bridged the gap between the New England and the southern colonies. They engaged in systematic colonisation, founding the new colony of Carolina to the south of Virginia, while out of their Dutch conquests they organised the colonies of New York, New Jersey, and Delaware; and the end of the reign saw the establishment of the interesting and admirably managed Quaker colony of Pennsylvania. They started the Hudson Bay Company, which engaged in the trade in furs to the north of the French colonies. They systematically encouraged the East India Company, which now began to be more prosperous than at any earlier period, and obtained in Bombay its first territorial possession in India.

[4] It was not till 1696, however, that this Board became permanent.

More important, they worked out a new colonial policy, which was to remain, in its main features, the accepted British policy down to the loss of the American colonies in 1782. The theory at the base of this policy was that while the mother-country must be responsible for the defence of all the scattered settlements, which in their weakness were exposed to attack from many sides, in she might reasonably expect to be put in possession of definite trade advantages. Hence the Navigation Act of 1660 provided not only that inter-imperial trade should be carried in English or colonial vessels, but that certain 'enumerated articles,' including some of the most important colonial products, should be sent only to England, so that English merchants should have the profits of selling them to other countries, and the English government the proceeds of duties upon them; and another Act provided that imports to the colonies should only come from, or through, England. In other words, England was to be the commercial entrepot of the whole empire; and the regulation of imperial trade as a whole was to belong to the English government and parliament. To the English government also must necessarily fall the conduct of the relations of the empire as a whole with other powers. This commercial system was not, however, purely one-sided. If the colonies were to send their chief products only to England, they were at the same time to have a monopoly, or a marked advantage, in English markets. Tobacco-growing had been for a time a promising industry in England; it was prohibited in order that it might not compete with the colonial product; and differential duties were levied on the competing products of other countries and their colonies. In short, the new policy was one of Imperial Preference; it aimed at turning the empire into an economic unit, of which England should be the administrative and distributing centre. So far the English policy did not differ in kind from the contemporary colonial policy of other countries, though it left to the colonies a greater freedom of trade (for example, in the 'non-enumerated articles') than was ever allowed by Spain or France, or by the two great trading companies which controlled the foreign possessions of Holland.

But there is one respect in which the authors of this system differed very widely from the colonial statesmen of other countries. Though they were anxious to organise and consolidate the empire on the basis of a trade system, they had no desire or intention of altering its self-governing character, or of discouraging the growth of a healthy diversity of type and method. Every one of the new colonies of this period was provided with the accustomed machinery of representative government: in the case of Carolina, the philosopher, John Locke, was invited to draw up a model constitution, and although his scheme was quite unworkable, the fact that he was asked to make it affords a striking proof of the seriousness with which the problems of colonial government were regarded. In several of the West Indian settlements self-governing institutions were organised during these years. In the Frame of Government which Penn set forth on the foundation of Pennsylvania, in 1682, he laid it down that 'any government is free where the laws rule, and where the people are a party to these rules,' and on this basis proceeded to organise his system. According to this definition all the English colonies were free, and they were almost the only free communities in the world. And though it is true that there was an almost unceasing conflict between the government and the New England colonies, no one who studies the story of these quarrels can fail to see that the demands of the New Englanders were often unreasonable and inconsistent with the maintenance of imperial unity, while the home government was extremely patient and moderate. Above all, almost the most marked feature of the colonial policy of Charles II. was the uniform insistence upon complete religious toleration in the colonies. Every new charter contained a clause securing this vital condition.

It has long been our habit to condemn the old colonial system as it was defined in this period, and to attribute to it the disruption of the empire in the eighteenth century. But the judgment is not a fair one; it is due to those Whig prejudices by which so much of the modern history of England has been distorted. The colonial policy of Shaftesbury and his colleagues was incomparably more enlightened than that of any contemporary government. It was an interesting experiment—the first, perhaps, in modern history—in the reconciliation of unity and freedom. And it was undeniably successful: under it the English colonies grew and throve in a very striking way. Everything, indeed, goes to show that this system was well designed for the needs of a group of colonies which were still in a state of weakness, still gravely under-peopled and undeveloped. Evil results only began to show themselves in the next age, when the colonies were growing stronger and more independent, and when the self-complacent Whigs, instead of revising the system to meet new conditions, actually enlarged and emphasised its most objectionable features.

(c) The Conflict of French and English, 1713-1763

While France and England were defining and developing their sharply contrasted imperial systems, the Dutch had fallen into the background, content with the rich dominion which they had already acquired; and the Spanish and Portuguese empires had both fallen into stagnation. New competitors, indeed, now began to press into the field: the wildly exaggerated notions of the wealth to be made from colonial ventures which led to the frenzied speculations of the early eighteenth century, John Law's schemes, and the South Sea Bubble, induced other powers to try to obtain a share of this wealth; and Austria, Brandenburg, and Denmark made fitful endeavours to become colonising powers. But the enterprises of these states were never of serious importance. The future of the non-European world seemed to depend mainly upon France and England; and it was yet to be determined which of the two systems, centralised autocracy enforcing uniformity, or self-government encouraging variety of type, would prove the more successful and would play the greater part. Two bodies of ideas so sharply contrasted were bound to come into conflict. In the two great wars between England and Louis XIV. (1688-1713), though the questions at issue were primarily European, the conflict inevitably spread to the colonial field; and in the result France was forced to cede in 1713 the province of Acadia (which had twice before been in English hands), the vast basin of Hudson's Bay, and the island of Newfoundland, to which the fishermen of both nations had resorted, though the English had always claimed it. But these were only preliminaries, and the main conflict was fought out during the half-century following the Peace of Utrecht, 1713-63.

During this half-century Britain was under the rule of the Whig oligarchy, which had no clearly conceived ideas on imperial policy. Under the influence of the mercantile class the Whigs increased the severity of the restrictions on colonial trade, and prohibited the rise of industries likely to compete with those of the mother-country. But under the influence of laziness and timidity, and of the desire quieta non movere, they made no attempt seriously to enforce either the new or the old restrictions, and in these circumstances smuggling trade between the New England colonies and the French West Indies, in defiance of the Navigation Act and its companions, grew to such dimensions that any serious interference with it would be felt as a real grievance. The Whigs and their friends later took credit for their neglect. George Grenville, they said, lost the colonies because he read the American dispatches; he would have done much better to leave the dispatches and the colonies alone. But this is a damning apology. If the old colonial system, whose severity, on paper, the Whigs had greatly increased, was no longer workable, it should have been revised; but no Whig showed any sign of a sense that change was necessary. Yet the prevalence of smuggling was not the only proof of the need for change. There was during the period a long succession of disputes between colonial governors and their assemblies, which showed that the restrictions upon their political freedom, as well as those upon their economic freedom, were beginning to irk the colonists; and that self-government was following its universal and inevitable course, and demanding its own fulfilment. But the Whigs made no sort of attempt to consider the question whether the self-government of the colonies could be increased without impairing the unity of the empire. The single device of their statesmanship was—not to read the dispatches. And, in the meanwhile, no evil results followed, because the loyalty of the colonists was ensured by the imminence of the French danger. The mother-country was still responsible for the provision of defence, though she was largely cheated of the commercial advantages which were to have been its recompense.

After 1713 there was a comparatively long interval of peace between Britain and France, but it was occupied by an acute commercial rivalry, in which, on the whole, the French seemed to be getting the upper hand. Their sugar islands in the West Indies were more productive than the British; their traders were rapidly increasing their hold over the central plain of North America, to the alarm of the British colonists; their intrigues kept alive a perpetual unrest in the recently conquered province of Acadia; and away in India, under the spirited direction of Francois Dupleix, their East India Company became a more formidable competitor for the Indian trade than it had hitherto been. Hence the imperial problem presented itself to the statesmen of that generation as a problem of power rather than as a problem of organisation; and the intense rivalry with France dwarfed and obscured the need for a reconsideration of colonial relations. At length this rivalry flamed out into two wars. The first of these was fought, on both sides, in a strangely half-hearted and lackadaisical way. But in the second (the Seven Years' War, 1756-63) the British cause, after two years of disaster, fell under the confident and daring leadership of Pitt, which brought a series of unexampled successes. The French flag was almost swept from the seas. The French settlements in Canada were overrun and conquered. With the fall of Quebec it was determined that the system of self-government, and not that of autocracy, should control the destinies of the North American continent; and Britain emerged in 1763 the supreme colonial power of the world. The problem of power had been settled in her favour; but the problem of organisation remained unsolved. It emerged in an acute and menacing form as soon as the war was over.

During the course of these two wars, and in the interval between them, an extraordinary series of events had opened a new scene for the rivalry of the two great imperial powers, and a new world began to be exposed to the influence of the political ideas of Europe. The vast and populous land of India, where the Europeans had hitherto been content to play the part of modest traders, under the protection and control of great native rulers, had suddenly been displayed as a field for the imperial ambitions of the European peoples. Ever since the first appearance of the Dutch, the English, and the French in these regions, Northern India had formed a consolidated empire ruled from Delhi by the great Mogul dynasty; the shadow of its power was also cast over the lesser princes of Southern India. But after 1709, and still more after 1739, the Mogul Empire collapsed, and the whole of India, north and south, rapidly fell into a condition of complete anarchy. A multitude of petty rulers, nominal satraps of the powerless Mogul, roving adventurers, or bands of Mahratta raiders, put an end to all order and security; and to protect themselves and maintain their trade the European traders must needs enlist considerable bodies of Indian troops. It had long been proved that a comparatively small number of troops, disciplined in the European fashion, could hold their own against the loose and disorderly mobs who followed the standards of Indian rulers. And it now occurred to the ambitious mind of the Frenchman Dupleix that it should be possible, by the use of this military superiority, to intervene with effect in the unceasing strife of the Indian princes, to turn the scale on one side or the other, and to obtain over the princes whose cause he embraced a commanding influence, which would enable him to secure the expulsion of his English rivals, and the establishment of a French trade monopoly based upon political influence.

This daring project was at first triumphantly successful. The English had to follow suit in self-defence, but could not equal the ability of Dupleix. In 1750 a French protege occupied the most important throne of Southern India at Hyderabad, and was protected and kept loyal by a force of French sepoys under the Marquis de Bussy, whose expenses were met out of the revenues of large provinces (the Northern Sarkars) placed under French administration; while in the Carnatic, the coastal region where all the European traders had their south-eastern headquarters, a second French protege had almost succeeded in crushing his rival, whom the English company supported. But the genius of Clive reversed the situation with dramatic swiftness; the French authorities at home, alarmed at these dangerous adventures, repudiated and recalled Dupleix (1754), and the British power was left to apply the methods which he had invented. When the Seven Years' War broke out (1756), the French, repenting of their earlier decision, sent a substantial force to restore their lost influence in the Carnatic, but the result was complete failure. A British protege henceforward ruled in the Carnatic; a British force replaced the French at Hyderabad; and the revenues of the Northern Sarkars, formerly assigned for the maintenance of the French force, were handed over to its successor. Meanwhile in the rich province of Bengal a still more dramatic revolution had taken place. Attacked by the young Nawab, Siraj-uddaula, the British traders at Calcutta had been forced to evacuate that prosperous centre (1756). But Clive, coming up with a fleet and an army from Madras, applied the lessons he had learnt in the Carnatic, set up a rival claimant to the throne of Bengal, and at Plassey (1757) won for his puppet a complete victory. From 1757 onwards the British East India Company was the real master in Bengal, even more completely than in the Carnatic. It had not, in either region, conquered any territory; it had only supported successfully a claimant to the native throne. The native government, in theory, continued as before; the company, in theory, was its subject and vassal. But in practice these great and rich provinces lay at its mercy, and if it did not yet choose to undertake their government, this was only because it preferred to devote itself to its original business of trade.

Thus by 1763 the British power had achieved a dazzling double triumph. It had destroyed the power of its chief rival both in the East and in the West. It had established the supremacy of the British peoples and of British methods of government throughout the whole continent of North America; and it had entered, blindly and without any conception of what the future was to bring forth, upon the path which was to lead to dominion over the vast continent of India, and upon the tremendous task of grafting the ideas of the West upon the East.

Such was the outcome of the first two periods in the history of European imperialism. It left Central and South America under the stagnant and reactionary government of Spain and Portugal; the eastern coast of North America under the control of groups of self-governing Englishmen; Canada, still inhabited by Frenchmen, under British dominance; Java and the Spice Islands, together with the small settlement of Cape Colony, in the hands of the Dutch; a medley of European settlements in the West Indian islands, and a string of European factories along the coast of West Africa; and the beginning of an anomalous British dominion established at two points on the coast of India. But of all the European nations which had taken part in this vast process of expansion, one alone, the British, still retained its vitality and its expansive power.



'Colonies are like fruits,' said Turgot, the eighteenth-century French economist and statesman: 'they cling to the mother-tree only until they are ripe.' This generalisation, which represented a view very widely held during that and the next age, seemed to be borne out in the most conclusive way by the events of the sixty years following the Seven Years' War. In 1763 the French had lost almost the whole of the empire which they had toilsomely built up during a century and a half. Within twenty years their triumphant British rivals were forced to recognise the independence of the American colonies, and thus lost the bulk of what may be called the first British Empire. They still retained the recently conquered province of French Canada, but it seemed unlikely that the French Canadians would long be content to live under an alien dominion: if they had not joined in the American Revolution, it was not because they loved the British, but because they hated the Americans. The French Revolutionary wars brought further changes. One result of these wars was that the Dutch lost Cape Colony, Ceylon, and Java, though Java was restored to them in 1815. A second result was that when Napoleon made himself master of Spain in 1808, the Spanish colonies in Central and South America ceased to be governed from the mother-country; and having tasted the sweets of independence, and still more, the advantages of unrestricted trade, could never again be brought into subordination. By 1825 nothing was left of the vast Spanish Empire save the Canaries, Cuba, Porto Rico, and the Philippine Islands; nothing was left of the Portuguese Empire save a few decaying posts on the coasts of Africa and India; nothing was left of the Dutch Empire save Java and its dependencies, restored in 1815; nothing was left of the French Empire save a few West Indian islands; and what had been the British American colonies were now the United States, a great power declaring to Europe, through the mouth of President Monroe, that she would resist any attempt of the European powers to restore the old regime in South America. It appeared that the political control of European states over non-European regions must be short-lived and full of trouble; and that the influence of Europe upon the non-European world would henceforth be exercised mainly through new independent states imbued with European ideas. Imperial aspirations thus seemed to that and the next generation at once futile and costly.

Of all these colonial revolutions the most striking was that which tore away the American colonies from Britain (1764-82); not only because it led to the creation of one of the great powers of the world, and was to afford the single instance which has yet arisen of a daughter-nation outnumbering its mother-country, but still more because it seemed to prove that not even the grant of extensive powers of self-government would secure the permanent loyalty of colonies. Indeed, from the standpoint of Realpolitik, it might be argued that in the case of America self-government was shown to be a dangerous gift; for the American colonies, which alone among European settlements had obtained this supreme endowment, were the first, and indeed the only, European settlements to throw off deliberately their connection with the mother-country. France and Holland lost their colonies by war, and even the Spanish colonies would probably never have thought of severing their relations with Spain but for the anomalous conditions created by the Napoleonic conquest.

The American Revolution is, then, an event unique at once in its causes, its character, and its consequences; and it throws a most important illumination upon some of the problems of imperialism. It cannot be pretended that the revolt of the colonists was due to oppression or to serious misgovernment. The paltry taxes which were its immediate provoking cause would have formed a quite negligible burden upon a very prosperous population; they were to have been spent exclusively within the colonies themselves, and would have been mainly used to meet a part of the cost of colonial defence, the bulk of which was still to be borne by the mother-country. If the colonists had been willing to suggest any other means of raising the required funds, their suggestions would have been readily accepted. This was made plain at several stages in the course of the discussion, but the invitation to suggest alternative methods of raising money met with no response. The plain fact is that Britain, already heavily loaded with debt, was bearing practically the whole burden of colonial defence, and was much less able than the colonies themselves to endure the strain. As for the long-established restrictions on colonial trade, which in fact though not in form contributed as largely as the proposals of direct taxation to cause the revolt, they were far less severe, even if they had been strictly enforced, than the restrictions imposed upon the trade of other European settlements.

It is equally misleading to attribute the blame of the revolt wholly to George III. and the ministers by whom he was served during the critical years. No doubt it is possible to imagine a more tactful man than George Grenville, a more far-seeing and courageous statesman than Lord North, a less obstinate prince than George III. himself. But it may be doubted whether any change of men would have done more than postpone the inevitable. The great Whig apologists who have dictated the accepted view of British history in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have laboured to create the impression that if only Burke, Chatham, and Charles Fox had had the handling of the issue, the tragedy of disruption would have been avoided. But there is no evidence that any of these men, except perhaps Burke, appreciated the magnitude and difficulty of the questions that had been inevitably raised in 1764, and must have been raised whoever had been in power; or that they would have been able to suggest a workable new scheme of colonial government which would have met the difficulty. If they had put forward such a scheme, it would have been wrecked on the resistance of British opinion, which was still dominated by the theories and traditions of the old colonial system; and even if it had overcome this obstacle, it would very likely have been ruined by the captious and litigious spirit to which events had given birth among the colonists, especially in New England.

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