November 28, 2005

WW0@1892 Book Review: G. Parkinís Imperial Federation

Imperial Federation: The Problem of National Unity
George A. Parkin Biography here
MacMillan & Co.
London/New York 1892 314pp no index


725K MS-Word E-book Download file

"Commercial and Strategic Chart of the British Empire"
817K .JPG map 85% of original size Download file
Full-size 1.3meg .JPG of chart available from me upon request.

Note: This substantial book review is meant to give blog readers a solid sense of the book, for those without the time to download and read the entire e-book.

As the 19th century concluded, it became clear that the United Kingdom would not be in a position to both fully capitalize and protect its various colonies in the face of all antagonists. The larger of the colonies, the dominions, were rapidly reaching a level of development and industrialization where self-governance was expedient. Canada confederated in 1867 and continued to expand westward, forming new provinces into the 20th century. Australia federated in 1901 and South Africa in 1910.

In 1884, a movement began in England to federate the empire, much as Canada had recently confederated. The United States and Canada were concrete examples of how vast territories could be effectively managed while maintaining a central representative authority. Branches of the Imperial Federation League spread throughout the Empire, with a large branch forming in 1887 in Toronto in response to an American initiative for Commercial Union between the US and Canada.

George Parkin was a New Brunswick educator sponsored on an Empire-wide speaking tour in 1889 to promote Imperial Federation. On his return he wrote both about his tour (Round the Empire, 1893) and about the core principles of imperial federation in this book, informed by his experiences in England and each of the major colonies. Shortly thereafter he became headmaster of Canada's most prestigious private school for boys - Upper Canada College. Leaving there in 1902, he became the organizing representative for the Rhodes Scholarship. He was knighted (KCMG) in 1920 and died in London in 1922. His round-the-world trip must certainly place him apart from most geopolitical commentators of the day.

As might be hoped from a headmaster, Parkin's book reads very clearly. It's written in the style of the time, occasionally stilted and overly ornate to modern eyes. Unfortunately it also reflects the internal politics of the Imperial Federation League, at least as far as I can determine. The book has a tendency to ramble off on topics that are interesting but not central to the imperial federation argument. The contrast with Dos Passos (the American corporate lawyer writing in 1903) in The AngloSaxon Century is marked. One wonders if Parkinís tangents were to avoid goring favoured oxen, or perhaps an attempt to present a balanced discussion of topics that were very much in debate within the League. The book was written ten years before Dos Passos' AngloSaxon Century and twenty years before Kennedy's Pan-Angles. It therefore contains no reference to the Boer War, the Spanish-American War, the Panama Canal, or much in the way of the urgent British security concerns of the early 20th century. There is next to nothing about the "radicalism" that was to be the political watchword of the 20th century.

It is, essentially, the economic case for federating the various colonies of the British Empire, answering the most common arguments against such federation without offering too much detail in the specifics of legislative structure or representation. Such specifics were better left to the concerned parties themselves. And it was seen that the federation (on the horizon) of the larger self-governing colonies would be the logical trigger for discussions of an imperial federation.

The table of contents reveals this geographical focus:

The United Kingdom
French Canada
Mr. Goldwin Smith (biography:
Australia. Tasmania. New Zealand.
South Africa. The West Indies.
An American View
Trade and Fiscal Policy
Plans. Conclusions.
Commercial and Strategic Chart of the British Empire [see hyperlink above]

The two odd-men-out are the chapters on Goldwin Smith and "An American View". Goldwin Smith was a English commentator, living in Canada, who was convinced that the destiny of Canada was in joining the United States. For the latter decades of the 19th century he was a burr under the saddle of both Canadians and Brits who had contrary views. And the focus of the American View chapter is Andrew Carnegie, who had written a very self-serving article in 1891 about Imperial Federation that denigrated the concept with an argument based on rather shaky assertions. These two diversions from Parkin's argument suggest necessary, but rather ad hoc, arguments. At the time that Parkin was writing, the rapprochement between the US and the British Empire was some years in the future so any suggestion that Canada was better off as part of the United States was a serious affront to imperial federation, especially when Canada was the only colony of the time that had a federated system.

The introductory section of Imperial Federation sets the stage for the state of the British Empire in 1892. It is a story of substantial growth and change during the late 19th century, with the success of Canadian confederation in 1867 generally acknowledged. Apart from the revolutionary changes of 1776, the model for the development of the British Empire was evolution, and friendly relations between the nation of the United Kingdom and its far-flung colonies. In this setting, Parkin asks "The nation-building energy of her people remained unimpaired, and though one group of colonies [US] had been lost, others, extending over areas far more extensive, were soon gained. Under new principles of government these were acquired, not to be lost, but retained as they have been up to the present time. Is that retention to be permanent? Is it desirable? Can the colonies be brought, and ought they to be brought, not merely into friendly relations, but into organic harmony with the national system? Has our capacity for political organization reached its utmost limit?"

He continues: "For British people this is the question of questions. In the whole range of possible political variation in the future there is no issue of such far-reaching significance, not merely for our own people but for the world at large, as the question whether the British Empire shall remain a political unit for all national purposes, or, yielding to disintegrating forces, shall allow the stream of the national life to be parted into many separate channels."

In an earlier era, a focus on Free Trade, and setting colonies free dominated elite political thinking. The exemplar was the United States, a rebellious colony but now a prosperous trading and investment partner. By the late 1800s, that "turn 'em loose" attitude no longer held sway amongst the educated class in the British Empire. International tariffs and the rapidly expanding trade between the United Kingdom and its large colonies had altered the economic realities. The mother country was now profoundly dependent on its largest colonies for food and raw materials, and on colonial customers for its manufactured goods. An earlier British model of the 1860s which saw a methodical transition to complete independence for the colonies now seemed to threaten the security of colonies and the economic viability of Great Britain. The British Empire was now profoundly global, and with the advent of the telegraph and the steam ship, direct rule and intervention were increasingly possible. Great Britain was bumping up against its European competitors in every corner of the globe.

Parkin lists the extraordinary changes of the last half of the 19th century which steered leading public thinkers away from setting colonies on their own: "the extension of commercial and industrial relations, the growth of common interests, the increased facility for communication, above all, the retention in the colonies, under their new systems of free government, of a strong national [i.e., British] sentiment, and the absence of the anticipated desire to break the national connection, have thrown new light upon the whole question." We may take the avowed "sentiment" with a modest grain of salt -- since there were parties throughout the Empire with a fervent desire to see the end of British influence. But the growth of economic interests and the sustained cultural ties supported by improved communication were undeniable.

While Parkin notes that representative government has been the hallmark of British political philosophy, it was also clear at the time that he was writing that Great Britain was taking on far more responsibility for its colonies than pure economics and political interest would demand. "It requires little argument to prove that the anomaly of leaving one part of a nation to bear a disproportionate share of the burdens of the whole is as inconsistent with Anglo-Saxon ideas of government as the exclusion of the colonies from a proportionate voice in the conduct of national affairs."

This, then, was the quandary of the Empire at the end of the 19th century. Huge, increasingly prosperous, and with large colonies on the verge of self-government ... how was the empire to more equitably share the benefits of representative government, and the burdens and responsibilities of global trade and security? It's a question not so foreign to our own time.

Parkin then begins his exposition on the increasing strength of the ties between the "mother-land" and the colonies while at the same time commenting on the relentless colonial trend toward national federation. Imperial federation is held out as simply one more level of federation, entirely feasible and achievable within the traditions of Great Britain, once the various colonies have reached their national federative state.

Moving on from his substantial Introduction, Parkin considers the essence of federation: "[the] central internal fact, then, which must soon bring about a decisive change in our system of national organization is the necessity that British people in all parts of the Empire should have, if they are to remain together and so far as circumstances permit, full and equal privileges of self-government and citizenship."

From the perspective of the colonies, this meant better representation in imperial decision-making, including Privy Council legal decisions, and from the perspective of Great Britain, this meant more equitable participation in common security and the consular structure created around the world for British trade. The most dramatic model on offer was the United States ... vast in scale and able to expand methodically, capable of accommodating substantial differences in the size and circumstances of the States, able to provide for common defence, and with safeguards for its smaller members built into its federal structure.

Parkin was confident that the burgeoning improvement in communication ... the appearance of telegraph and steam ship ... were the practical tools by which an imperial federation could be bound, just as America was bound first by roads, then canals and railways. The trend of economy and science was therefore in favour of a global federation. Parkin was not above drawing on concepts such as sentiment and honour to validate self-interest, however he is particularly strong in pointing out where practical financial interests for ordinary colonial citizens lent themselves to an imperial federation. The tension, of course, is between the efficiency of centralized control (e.g. security) and the natural aspirations of the colonies to have a say in how their contributions were deployed. As would be seen in Canada, it was colonial concern not be drawn into imperial ambitions that led to much divisiveness.

For Parkin: "If we really have faith in our own social and Christian progress as a nation; if we believe that our race, on the whole, and in spite of many failures, can be trusted better than others, to use power with moderation, self-restraint, and a deep sense of moral responsibility; if we believe that the wide area of our possessions may be made a solid factor in the world's politics, which will always throw the weight of its influence on the side of righteous peace, then it cannot be inconsistent with devotion to all the highest interests of humanity to wish and strive for a consolidation of British power."

In the imperial federative system, the monarch provided a well-established head-of-state, avoiding the thorny debates on the topic in the early United States. The roadmap to federation seemed to have all the building blocks in place. The fact that colonies were in different stages of economic and political development might be seen as a hindrance to federation but Parkin points out that the Canadian and American federations offered substantial historical examples of neighbouring territories gradually developing until they were ready to join the federation. Why not the same for an Imperial Federation?

For Parkin, federation was a step toward greater opportunity and responsibility, not a surrender of rights: "In the minds of some colonists and more Englishmen I have found a belief, or rather a suspicion, that any closer union than at present exists could only be effected by taking away from the colonies some of the self-governing powers which they now possess." This, he felt, was based on a mistaken assumption about how independent they really were ... how much they contributed to their own security, capitalization and development. The question was whether the broader responsibilities were to be dealt with individually by the colonies or in partnership with other parts of the British Empire. "It has been said that all great movements which affect the condition of peoples are originated and carried forward by the combination of two forces: the force of conviction, which comes from reason, and the force of enthusiasm, which is born of sentiment." For Parkin, the sources of colonial sentiment could only come from the literary and cultural heritage which they drew from Great Britain.

Turning to Defence, Parkin extrapolates from the geopolitical realities already established by Sir Charles Dilke (Problems of Greater Britain, 1890) and J.R. Seeley (Expansion of England, 1883). These authors saw the colonies as the sources of great resources but poorly organized. The fall of Great Britain would place them all in jeopardy. In the famous words of Seeley in 1882, "[w]e seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mindĒ. Parkin notes that the defence of common interests is the primary bond for federations and sets about illustrating what those interests were. In contrast to the United States, the British Empire was a maritime establishment, placing 1.2 billion pounds value of commerce on the oceans each year, even in the 1890s. Of that, 740 million originated in the UK and 460 in the colonies. For such a system, the isolation of the colonies was no protection from danger. Security would come from sea power, fortified coaling stations, and strong regional presence. As Parkin notes, for Great Britain's competitors, the challenge was to either seize or duplicate the worldwide staging areas for naval power. That Great Britain already controlled the "chokepoints" (evidenced in the map which Parkin attached to his book) was clear ... Cape Town, Suez, the West Indies, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia. British and colonial trade was made effective and safe and inexpensive by its global protection. British annual expenditure on ports, armaments and ships was roughly 14 million pounds, a fraction of the value of the trade which it protected. Nonetheless, Parkin noted that the colonies contributed hardly anything to that cost while reaping millions in trade benefits.

This sticking point on "who pays" was a theme in colonial affairs long after Parkin but the general arguments were clear. The federalists wanted a balance between rights and participation. The colonial governments considered that since they shouldered the burdens of development (e.g. the Canadian transcontinental railway), their contribution to the empire was maximized through internal development of marketable resources, and as needed, local defence. Since British capital flowed overwhelmingly to its English-speaking colonies, any halt in internal development to share in defence expenditures would come at the expense of growth and infrastructure of the colony. Colonial trade to mother country trade was in the ratio of four to seven. At a future date, when the balance was more equal, and the basics of civilization were in place, the colonies could share the burden better. From the British side, half the population and trade being required to bear all security costs was not very appealing. For many reasons, some of which may relate to "absence of mind" the British colonies were never required to bear or ultimately compensate Great Britain for their security. British colonies spent minimally on armaments and military development in comparison to colonies or newly independent nations created by other European nations.

Arguments about the colonies being entangled in British imperial adventures were made often and early by authors such as Goldwin Smith but Parkin countered that the 19th century was notable for how little entanglement there was. From the time of the War of 1812 til that of his publication (1892), the only foreign war of note was in Crimea and in that the colonies such as Canada made money but had virtually no other involvement apart from Canadians who had long before joined the British military.

British commentators such as Lord Thring thought that some basis for independence in colonial armies and navies was possible but that they should be formed to allow merging into the imperial army and navy as occasion should demand. And Sir Charles Dilke was adamant that a military under common direction was critical. As history would show during the Boer War, and the two world wars, finding the balance between colonial and British control of colonial troops was fraught with problems. Ultimately, nations that could field large contingents were able to maintain some professional control over their troops. Political interference, especially in the First World War, was to cost the lives of many Canadian troops in particular.

Parkin noted that the "entanglements" that so bothered colonials were likely a matter for the past rather than the future. In fact, the bulk of British engagements and negotiations in the 19th century were in response to the demands of protecting colonial rights. Irritation with European powers was often triggered by British colonies. At one time or another, the British were engaged in negotiations with the United States, France, Germany and Portugal ... with no direct benefit to themselves. Colonial complaints about the national debt which Great Britain assumed in maintaining its forces ignored the great benefits and gain which Britain received in the growth of the imperial economy. Dilke's 1890 book argued passionately that it was imperial carelessness to not balance defence better.

Having set the general terms of federation and defence, Parkin turns to a geographic review of the economic and social realities of Great Britain and each of the colonies.

His section on Great Britain is an extended review of the scale and scope of the British economy. To an unprecedented degree, Britain was being fed and supplied with raw materials from its overseas colonies. Like a modern-day globalist, Parkin notes the manufacturing centres of the United Kingdom that could not last for more than a few months without regular supplies of wool from Australia, jute from India, and timber, wheat or live beef from Canada. Similarly, the growing colonies provided the demand for manufactured goods that kept British factories busy.

Turning to Canada, the experience of twenty plus years of confederation was very positive. With the completion of the Canadian transcontinental railway (1885) Canada was now a geopolitical lynchpin with Atlantic and Pacific interests. Australasia and the Asian ports were immediately affected. Transiting troops by railway reduced the England to Asia travel time from 40 days to 21 days. As to the appetite for union with the United States, Parkin makes much of the Loyalist origins and appetites of many of its citizens. Because of anti-British sentiment in the United States, Canada could be said to be as close to the US as to Britain in most ways. Parkin also contrasts the nature of US immigration which made it less connected to British origins, and to the very different way in which it dealt with the exploration and settlement of the West. The contrast with Canada was notable and Parkin could hardly imagine that Canadians would want to join the US only to have to fight Britain at some future unfortunate date. Parkin concludes that the US is a continental power and self-sufficient while Britain is a maritime power and dependent on trade with its colonies for prosperity. While Canada-US trade was substantial in some products (timber, fish, coal), in wheat (the great driver of western Canadian development) trade with Great Britain was growing dramatically. On balance then, Parkin felt that Canada was both beneficial, and predisposed, to Britain.

In the case of French Canada, which Parkin treats in a separate chapter, he emphasizes a general tranquility in the region, with no love lost for either the United States or France, quoting Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier's typically vague statements in support. Parkin points out that French rights in religion and law are guaranteed by British and Canadian agreements. Without that support, their culture would likely go the way of Louisiana. Quebec nationalism, then in its infancy, makes only a minor appearance in the book, as a cultural oddity. It is worth remembering that the Montreal cultural and business establishment was still very much dominated by the English at this period.

Turning to Australia, the issue of federation was still an open question for the various Australian colonies. The activities of France and Germany in the southwest Pacific were a security concern, as was the Dutch colony of Indonesia. Australian resistance to any Chinese immigration was a future irritant to relations with mainland Asia. An Australia which opted for full independence would be very much at the mercy of other European naval powers, directly or indirectly. Australian security and trade ties were already well-established to India and the Cape Colony, to Hong Kong and Singapore, to Canada, and within the foreseeable future to a Panama Canal. For a trading nation like Australia, Parkin noted that isolation was no protection, and an effective self-defence would not eliminate economic calamity ... the example of the US during the War of 1812 was a case in point. Australia was tied to the ocean and to trade. Severing its overseas ties was not like a previous break between the US and Great Britain. There were no new great lands to claim and settle. Now disruption in trade would lead to slower growth and immigration. With British control of the oceans, Australian federation and then a broader imperial union would better emphasize the practical and emotional ties between the two. Wool, food and horses were already major trade goods. Massive ore mines in Australia provided even more opportunity for investment and economic growth within the imperial system. Parkin, during his visits to the Australian colonies, found his audiences over-confident through their good fortune. They little knew nor understood the degree to which their country depended on foreign trade and British naval supremacy for that fortune. For neighbouring Tasmania, the appetite for imperial federation was stronger because it was both more remote and less well-defended. It could easily be turned into a Gilbraltar of the South Seas if seized by some other European power.

In New Zealand, Parkin met a greater awareness of the need for better security and of the growing importance of direct trade with Great Britain (70% of exports) and the other large colonies. New Zealanders was concerned that the Australian appetite for independence would lead to New Zealand's separation from the empire. In a sense, New Zealand was a Britain in the South Seas and from a military standpoint, the estrangement of Australia from the British empire would not be irredeemable if New Zealand maintained its ties.

For South Africa, the issue of broad concern was the level of non-British descent in the colony. The strategic importance of South Africa was clear to all. If the Suez should be threatened, then British trade to India and the Pacific (roughly 150 to 200 million pounds in value annually) would depend on safe harbours at the Cape. As it was, 90 million pounds of seaborne trade were passing the Cape each year. South Africans were therefore more open to tariff ties to the empire. Bordered as they were by Portuguese and German dependencies, with the French in Madagascar, with native populations and "Dutch republics" that were only barely on friendly terms, South Africans were aware of their need for more capital, more development, and a stable security situation.

Parkin notes that the West Indies were the hardest-won of the colonies but had been left behind as its economic importance as a source of sugar dwindled. The Panama Canal would affect the role of the West Indian colonies, as would a better network of British-only telegraphy lines but this area was less likely to reach self-governance and national consolidation in the near future.

As for India, Goldwin Smith put the question of imperial federation pointedly "But above all, what is to be done with India?" For Parkin, the answer was twofold ... trade between Great Britain and India was larger than any other trade link other than that of Great Britain and the US (some 100 million pounds annually at the time). In geo-strategic terms, Russian control of India would place Great Britain's Pacific colonies in jeopardy. Nonetheless, Parkin granted the great paradox ... how could the United Kingdom rule over hundreds of millions who were without representation? For him, the paradox was no greater under a federation than under the arrangements of the 1890s. The government in India was both effective for Indians and financially independent of the British Parliament. Its fiscal system was separate and whatever changes that would take place in its Crown colony status could occur without affecting any imperial federal system. That might mean "no change" or it might mean something else. Either way, it was no cause to delay a federal system across the dominions of the Empire.

At this point in the book, Parkin spends a chapter to look at "An American View" ... which turns out mostly to be a critical review of an Andrew Carnegie article on imperial federation. To quote: "Working out on separate and yet parallel lines the great problems of liberty and of civil and religious progress, the United States and the British Empire have the strongest reasons for sympathizing with each other's efforts to consolidate and perfect the national machinery by which their aims are to be accomplished. English people now understand and respect the motives which actuated the resolute and successful struggle of the people of the United States against disruption. That Americans should understand the necessity which exists for maintaining the integrity of the Empire and the principles on which it is sought to maintain it, is most desirable. They are not likely to learn them from Mr. Carnegie."

Carnegie's article from 1891 seems almost devilish in its denigration of imperial federation, using arguments which would be just as applicable to the federal aspirations of a young United States were they not so clearly wrong. Parkin responds rather vehemently to Carnegie's cherry-picking, pointing out that as a global and maritime empire, Britain has different priorities and different tools for economic growth than continental United States. American affronts at British tariffs are seen as a tarred pot calling the slightly scuffed kettle black. And Carnegie didn't endear himself by quoting a Monsieur Mercier on the loyalties of Quebec or Goldwin Smith on the sentiments and capabilities of Canadians. Parkin found it useful to quote Alfred Mahan back at Carnegie regarding the role of sea power in national greatness!

Parkin then turns to chapters on Finance, and Trade and Fiscal policy -- material that is both interesting and suddenly tentative. He makes the case again in summary about the economic importance of trade and its growth in the British Empire. Public loans and debt are matched in equal part by the inexpensive private loans which underpin colonial growth. Then he gets sidelined by a discussion of whether free trade (adopted in 1846 by Britain) or protectionism are more effective in reducing prices and increasing economic activity. Since the British colonial system had no unified monetary or fiscal policy, it was entirely possible for different colonies to institute their own responses to economic conditions. The United States was not above playing off its own markets against Britain's if Canadians would establish preferential rates. While Parkin knew finance policies were obviously central to a imperial federal scheme, economic knowledge of the time was uncertain on a course of action. It's entirely possible that Parkin's tour sponsors were similarly conflicted. For his part, he notes that "Dependence on sources of food supply outside the Empire is still so great that any change of policy would be thought to involve great risk and anxiety. Though a few years of strenuous effort would doubtless make the Empire self-sufficing in the matter of food, still those few years of transition would be a critical period. Clear thinkers outside of the United Kingdom recognize this." In other words, when the British colonies could completely supply British food and raw material needs, the question of free trade or protectionism (especially vis-a-vis the United States) could be thoroughly addressed.

In any event, as Parkin notes: "The wealth created by either [economic approach] must be defended, and with the least possible burden on the individual community. A common system of defence therefore seems of itself a sufficient justification for close political union. This is a permanent condition."

The concluding chapter of Imperial Federation -- Plans. Conclusion. -- finds Parkin spending some time discussing the difficulties of making federative changes. Some critics want more specifics, others rebel at any detail that is suggested. And the experience of both the United States and Canada was that endless debate and ultimate compromise was necessary to make anything happen. In both cases, years of general discussion were necessary before the details were worked out by bodies of representatives and wise statesmen. Why should Imperial Federation be any different, Parkin asks. Australia was right in the middle of such a messy proposition. And the European examples of Italy and Germany provided further example of how challenging the process must be. For Parkin, open discussion followed by negotiation of specifics by those with public mandates was the way forward. He saw two ways forward to union: a "great act of constructive statesmanship" or "a great struggle for national safety or national existence." Yet a third was "a policy of gradual but steady adaptation of existing national machinery to the new work which must be done." Dramatic or routine, George Parkin saw the move toward federation a necessary accommodation to the huge range of decisions which had to be made in the Empire, some local, some literally global. Colonial or Imperial Conferences and tinkering with the composition of the Privy Council were both seen as first acceptable steps that could be made by the gradualists.

Other agendas suggested by Parkin included reducing the cost of telegraphic and postal communications, rationalizing the judicial committee of the Privy Council (then the final court of appeal for the Empire), improved education of the public on the subject, and the involvement of chambers of commerce, workingmen's clubs, the press and schools. The "problem of British unity" was the "business of all."

What to make of the Imperial Federation argument after hundreds of pages? The economic and military arguments were compelling from a British perspective. But the whole argument smacks of the kitchen table discussion over when the adolescent kids should stop getting an allowance and start paying rent. In the absence of external threat, or British assertiveness, there was no momentum to shift the burden of foreign affairs and adequate security to the colonies or dominions. They were growing economic giants, supporting the prosperity of the "mother-land," and as long as money was being made in trade and banking, worried diplomats, generals, and admirals were going to hold little sway.

All the antagonisms which George Parkin met during his round-the-world Empire tour of 1889 were to be wheeled out with a vengeance during the political debates of the succeeding half-century. The increasing threat to the British Empire, culminating in the existential threat of World War II, did finally bring the dominions and Great Britain together ... haphazardly at first and then with greater effect. The effort however did take fifty years, and a crisis and left the Empire, and dreams of Imperial Federation badly broken. The United States emerged from the Spanish-American War just a few years later as *a* dominant power and from the Second World War as *the* dominant power. The U.S. made little effort on behalf of, and had little sympathy for, the British Empire. The collaborative efforts of the United Nations during the 1950s and 1960s, and the formation of the Commonwealth, were to gather many of the federative aspirations of the late 1800s into very different structures.

Political union of the English-speaking peoples is still being imagined (cf. Appendix B of Robert Conquest's latest book -- The Dragons of Expectation) but its heyday, in retrospect, seems to been the last decade of the 19th century ... when a middle-aged George Parkin could travel the British Empire in comfort and give speeches to far-flung peoples who still seemed part of one "nation."

Knowing what we do now about the behind-the-scenes discussions in the British government about managing the defence of the Empire and the relationship with the United States, we can read George Parkin's book with benefit but also with an understanding that Britain had no real answer to the growing dynamism of the United States. Within four years of Imperial Federation's publication, the Spanish-American War was to recast America as a global power. And within a decade, the US had become the de facto hegemon of the Americas, with very quiet imperial government acquiescence.

Posted by jmccormick at November 28, 2005 04:33 PM

Interesting that Andrew Carnegie should have been so critical of Imperial Federation, when in 1898 he would publish The Reunion of Britain and America: A Look Ahead , whicch was a full-scale advocacy of a political union between the US and the British Empire.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at November 28, 2005 06:27 PM
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