British colonial empire - the general history of state and law. Volume 2

4. British Colonial Empire

Attitude to the colonies.

In the interval between the two parliamentary reforms, there is a process of significant development and reorganization of the British colonial empire. There are few aggressive steps on the routes of external expansion during this period, and all energy is directed towards the internal consolidation of the empire and the settlement of new relations between the metropolis and the colonies, relations that have been restructured in accordance with the principle of free trade.

It is known how great was the role of the colonies in the manufacturing period in the 17th-18th centuries. The armed seizure of new lands gave them power to the merchant (the "trade follows the flag"), while the commercial hegemony provided industrial dominance in the manufacturing period. In the XVII-XVIII centuries. England in the fight against the Spaniards, the Dutch and the French made a wide base of the colonial empire spread out in all parts of the world.

The colonies were the most important source of the economic primacy of England, one of the most important foundations of its capitalist development. Taking from them very much, England gave them very little. At the end of the XVIII century. the egoistic policy of England in relation to its North American possessions has led to their outrage and fall.

It can not be said that the English bourgeoisie has not learned any important lessons from this important fact. Taking advantage of the fact that almost until the middle of the XIX century. the all-round dependence of the colonies on the metropolis is growing, imperial policy, under the guise of the new principle of free trade and liberalism, could curtail, for some time and without much risk, the path of apparent weakening not of economic but of political bonds that have chained the colony to the metropolis.

With the consolidation of Britain's industrial monopoly and its transformation into a "world factory", with which no country dared compete in the world market, England was only interested in extending to the colony the same miraculous principle of free trade. In this case, the colonies, as markets for raw materials and sales, fell into the same subordination to the industrial monopolist, like any other country, not fenced off by protectionist tariffs. But this could also be achieved by other forms of colonial policy that would not, without requiring great expenditures, raise taxes and, without being aggravated by major military clashes, would not violate the peaceful course of trade operations. Hence the strange, at first glance, cooling to the colonies, engulfed the British in the period between the two parliamentary reforms. The radical Cobden expressed, of course, the opinion of very powerful circles when he demanded the complete refusal of Great Britain from the colonies. Conservative Peel pointedly stated that "in every our colony we get the second Ireland, that is, the bloody arena of an endless and brutal struggle. In 1852, he himself was dramatically echoed by Disraeli himself: "Colonies, these are millstones on our necks." Thus, in the era of the greatest prosperity of free competition in England, in 1840-1860, its leading bourgeois politicians were against colonial policy, they considered the liberation of the colony, the complete separation of them from England an inevitable and useful business. "

Around this time, Mill creates a program of intrapolitical political relations in the spirit of "enlightened liberalism": justice and morality require that the colonies be given the right to change their constitutions, the right to freely create representative institutions and their own executive power. A complete break with the metropolis is undesirable, because there is a danger of absorption of colonies by a foreign power.

Indeed, during the period under review, some of these plans and wishes were implemented with respect to a number of colonies. At that time, it was laid the foundation for the formation of a new type of colonies - dominions, which were facing a broad future.

The situation of Ireland in the first half of the XIX century.

But neither free trade nor liberalism could improve Ireland's position. On the contrary, the situation worsened.

In 1800, Ireland was "combined" with Great Britain. Some data suggest that members of the Irish parliament who voted for this association were bribed. Union (Union) opened a new era of suffering for the Irish people. The reform of 1832 gave nothing to Ireland. The abolition of religious restrictions, which closed the Irish, who professed in the vast majority the Catholic religion, access to the House of Commons and to public office in general, was for a long time a purely paper measure. The English historian of law can not but admit that "long after 1829 the Protestants widely monopolized both administrative and judicial, and central, and local posts". 1. Until 1846, when an insignificant attempt was made to expand the participation of Catholics in local self-government, the number of Catholics who had the right to elect to municipal bodies did not exceed 200 people.

Nevertheless, the liberation movement of the Irish, although very lively, differed at that time almost exclusively in peaceful forms. It fell into the hands of O'Connell, who hoped to get the autonomy of Ireland by means of peaceful agitation. He attached great importance to parliamentary activity and was in the House of Commons the leader of a group of Irish deputies who supported the Whigs in their clashes with the Tories, but reached this way only a few not very significant reforms, such as the cancellation of the tax on Irish Catholics in favor of the English clergy of Ireland (1838). g.).

Only after the famine of 1846, which destroyed over a million poor people in Ireland, did the Young Ireland party, which proclaimed its goal a revolutionary uprising to win the independence of Ireland. The British government responded with brutal repression, with which the Irish political movement was pushed into deep underground.

Gladstone Irish Reforms.

This went on for a long time, until in the sixties the signal for the resumption of the struggle was given from the United States, where the Irish expatriates formed a secret revolutionary society "Fenians," who engaged in lively relations with the Irish revolutionaries in Ireland and embarked on the path terrorist acts in Ireland and in England itself. To weaken the liberation movement in Ireland, Gladstone, the head of the liberal cabinet formed as a result of the brilliant victory of the liberals in the elections of 1868, reformed the situation of the churches in that country. The reform officially equated the Catholic Church with the Anglican and Presbyterian and was, as it is not difficult to guess, giving some satisfaction to the Irish bourgeoisie, and at the same time depriving the Irish revolutionaries of the sympathy of the Catholic clergy of Ireland. The same value was attached to the land law of 1870, which apparently tended to limit the rights of Irish landowners to drive peasant tenants off the land at their own will, but which practically only slightly eased the situation of the more affluent peasants, leaving the least well-off in the same unconditional dependence from the landowner.

And along with this Gladstone led in Ireland fierce struggle with the revolutionaries tried by the methods of exceptional laws, completely legalizing the unbridled fury of the police and the courts. In fact, Ireland remained in a state of siege even when the Fenian movement had almost ceased and the country was "pacified".


The situation of the overseas possessions of England was somewhat different. The large English landownership is not so deep, of course, was interested in Canada or Australia, as in Ireland. Therefore, in relation to other colonies with a white population, the liberalism of free trade could manifest itself much more freely, and among these colonies, Canada was immediately in the most favorable position. A difficult lesson, received by the metropolis from its North American possessions in the late 18th century, taught her discretion and prudence in handling the American colonies that remained in her power. In addition, here in the Lower and Upper Canada, in the maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick), many inhabitants from New England and Virginia moved, dissatisfied with the deposition of these colonies and remained faithful to the king, but nonetheless accustomed to their constitutional and democratic order, almost unknown in Canada. Here, the rights of a representative assembly were substantially limited by the general-governor's veto rights, reservations, the dissolution of the chamber and arbitrary appointment of ministers. There was, in English terminology, a representative government, but there was no responsible government.

In the Lower Canada, a rather active movement for the expansion of autonomy began, and in the thirties the urban bourgeoisie, farmers and even the local nobility of Quebec united in a determined refusal to tolerate the autocracy of the governor. The uprising broke out in 1837, its focus was Lower Canada with its predominantly French population, but some sections of Upper Canada sympathized with it. The metropolis made concessions. The Lord Dargem, sent to Canada, pacified the insurrection with an armed hand, but this did not stop there, but proposed to the London government a project of full self-government of Canada with the restriction of the metropolitan intervention only to such matters that directly affect the interests of the empire. He, however, was soon withdrawn, but his project was basically implemented, albeit with a slowness and gradualness, so characteristic of all the progressive activities of the British government. Under the Governor-General of Canada, Elgino, the principle of responsible government received full recognition for Canada, remaining, of course, a conventional rule and subordinating at various times to the different conditions of class and party relations. The powerful governor-generals long after that successfully used the struggle of the Canadian parties to impose their decisions on both the parliament and the cabinet of Canada.

In this sense, little has changed even after 1867.

This year, the "Act of British North America" was the constitution of this dominion and initiated the Canadian federation in Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Dargema's note received, in general, great popularity and became the theoretical basis of the imperial policy of English liberalism. After Canada, the responsible government was established in the coastal provinces, and in 1854 the same happened in Newfoundland.


In Australia, the development was slower. In the 1930s, when Canada had already raised the banner of armed insurrection, the Australian colonies were still ruled by retired admirals and generals, rude soldiers, whose administrative talents manifested themselves mainly in the unrestricted use of weaves and gallows, and in the late sixties in Western Australia still exiled criminals. New South Wales, more than other Australian settlements approaching the type of colonies with representative government, only in 1855 received an entirely elected lower house, where it was not far from the responsible government. Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria (Western Australia only from 1890) entered the same path over the next few years. In New Zealand, a representative government was established in 1852 and almost immediately recognized a responsible government.

For Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the Act of 1865 on the validity of colonial laws, which firmly defined the competence of colonial legislatures, was of great importance. He established that the validity of their acts can be contested only if they contradict the imperial act directly related to the corresponding colony. Thus, an important step was taken towards the distribution of competence between the metropolis and the colonies.

South Africa.

The constitutional development of South Africa moved forward with more noticeable difficulties. In Capeland, which, as we already know, was transferred to England in 1815, the discontent of the Dutch Boers (the bulk of the white population) was increasing in the English dominion. Local slave owners were also outraged by the abolition of slavery (1834). In 1835, most of the Boers, mobile and militant, organizedly left Capeland and moved to Natal. Here the British, however, did not leave them alone, and in 1843 Natal after the unsuccessful armed resistance of the Boers was annexed to Capeland. A few years later, the Boers left the country behind the Orange River and founded a republic of the same name here. Almost after them (in 1848) British troops came and ended the independence of the Orange Republic. Part of the Boers immediately left the river Vaal, where the Transvaal Republic arose (1849). By this time in the colonial policy of England is already known to us a turning point. This was reflected in South Africa by recognizing the independence of the Transvaal and the autonomy of the Orange Republic. In 1856 Natal, with its numerous and predominant Negro population, was separated into an independent colony.

All these changes took place against the backdrop of incessant and bloody wars with Negro tribes, staunchly resisting the conquerors, but suffering from a lack of unity in their ranks.

Thus, by the end of the period under review, of the four main colonies that subsequently formed the South African Union, the two Boer republics stood apart, the white population of Natal, led by the British planters, was too small and too absorbed in the fight against the Blacks in order to to wage an energetic struggle for self-government, and only Capeland strenuously sought political freedom. He received a responsible government in 1872.

The position of the other colonies.

But outside of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, constitutional forms almost never found application. Where the native indigenous population - Negroes, Malays, Indians, etc. - was the bulk or at least numerically predominant over white, there the principles of liberalism refused to act. In the West Indies, for example, with its rebellious color population and white planters exploiting it, the development went even backwards, and Jamaica, which had since the XVII century. constitution and elective legislature, lost all of this in 1865 after the suppression of the Negro revolt. By the time of the colonies, founded in the XVII century, only Barbados, Bermuda and Bahamas still retained a representative government.

The situation of India in the first half of the XIX century.

Among overseas colonies, exploited without any constitutional embellishments,

India owned the first place. Since the beginning of the XIX century. the territorial seizures of the East India Company were expanding, and British possessions in India, which in 4804 were 480,000 square meters. miles, in 1856 brought to 987 thousand square meters. miles. Until the middle of the XIX century. India was governed by the act of 1784. In 1833, after the East India Company was deprived of its trade monopoly, the Governor-General of Bengal became governor-general of India. The Crown increasingly dominated the East India Company, whose profits in England had long been envied. There was a growing need to gain broader strata of the bourgeoisie from India at the expense of India, with the direct mediation of the state, which India was even more costly to pay. And in 1858, after the Sipaev uprising, the company was liquidated, and India passed under the direct control of the Crown. But although the Ministry of Indian Affairs was created with an advisory, under the statute of 1869, the council under him, all the government of India was in the hands of the governor-general, with the very problematic control of the cabinet and parliament. The provinces to which the country was divided had (not all) "legislative" councils, which were considered only as branches of the central council, which consisted of the Governor-General and which in turn was only of an advisory nature.

The vast country was under the personal dictatorship of the governor-general, who was unofficially called unofficially viceroy.

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