By A. P. Thornton
Why did the imperial code, for 80 years the dynamic of the idea and motion of the ruling type in England, decline so quickly after the second one global warfare? This ebook explores the imperialist sentiment from the second one 1/2 the 19th century to the aftermath of the Suez drawback.
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To Richard Cobden the Radical leader, the representative of Manchester and the textile north, the doctrine of self-assertion and interference was pointless because it was wasteful, and dangerous because it was both. Did we not recall that we had spent over £8oo millions interfering with revolutionary France sixty years back for no very clear reason, and with no very tangible result? Did not Whigs, of whom Palmerston was one, respect any longer the dictum of their great hero, Grey of the Reform Bill, who in 1830 had so strongly objected to trafficking with an unsettled Europe in any shape or form?
Neither of them meant it. The rulers were determined not to be infected with the principles either of American Democrats, or of French Jacobins, or of any English disciples of these septs. Property was still property, the bedrock of the English constitution and indeed the basis of every civilised society. After the American disaster, what was left to us of our property oversea must still be firmly governed, its affairs strictly regulated. The official view was, and remained, that it was because the American colonists had been carelessly granted too much liberty, which they had converted into licence, that the disaster had come about.
It was assumed for a generation after the abandonment of Protection- not in Manchester only, but in governing circles too - that the colonies would use their powers of responsible government to set themselves up, in no long time, as independent democratic republics on the model of the United States of America. When one of the first things the colonies did with their fiscal freedom was to clap duties on British as well as on foreign imports, it was an assumption that was doubly confirmed. All the arguments seemed to lie on this side.