The Downside of Imperial Collapse
When Empires or Great Powers Fall, Chaos and War Rise
ONE of the outstanding problems in the world today is the relation of "advanced" and "primitive" peoples. The problem has many aspects; but perhaps its most concrete form is found in the field of colonial government. Should the colonial powers cut their colonial possessions adrift, or should they relentlessly resist any demands for freedom? Should they attempt gradually to prepare their wards for self-government? And if so, what means should be taken to realize this end? The avowed theory of every colonial power, including the United States, is that its native wards should be trained for self-government. The task has usually proved discouraging. The more authority accorded the people on the spot, the more they protest against their rulers. And today, whether in the Philippines or in Porto Rico, whether in India or in French Senegal, wrestling matches are in progress between the administration which is responsible to a far-away central authority and the legislature which is responsible to a native electorate.
The British have showed, in parts of the world at any rate, a peculiar genius in meeting the colonial problem. Because of their own domestic history and characteristics they have not carried with them to far-away dominions any constitutional or philosophical preconceptions of what should or should not be done. Pragmatists and common lawyers, they have been accustomed to meeting each problem as it arose, and have attempted to find a solution which for the moment best satisfies the conflicting interests involved. Within recent years, however, they have realized that while each problem must be decided upon its own merits, the cumulative effects of a policy of makeshift may be disastrous. They are coming to take a longer view.
IN EAST AFRICA
One of the most serious situations anywhere in the British Empire is found in East Africa. The chief factors in it have already been recited in FOREIGN AFFAIRS [i] and need only be summarized here. Covering an area of about a million square miles, the five territories of East and Central Africa -- the colonies and protectorates of Kenya, Uganda, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia and the Tanganyika mandate -- contain a population of 12,000,000 natives, 28,000 Europeans, and about 50,000 Indians. A part of this area has a high altitude and semi-temperate climate, and especially in Kenya a settler population has taken up a permanent abode. Since 1919 a controversy has raged over British policy in Kenya. The charge has been repeatedly made that white settlement there has resulted in the loss of native land and in indirect compulsion of native labor. The question before the British Government is whether to extend the Kenya system into Tanganyika and Uganda; whether the white communities in these areas are eventually to be given responsible government; and whether these areas are to be federated with a view to the creation of a new Dominion.
In 1924 the British Government despatched a parliamentary commission to study affairs in East Africa,[ii] and in November 1927 it appointed a second commission composed of Sir E. Hilton Young as chairman, Sir Reginald Mant, Sir George Schuster, and Mr. J. H. Oldham, for the purpose of studying the desirability of establishing some form of closer union in East and Central Africa, and of advising as to the form of constitution which should be given territories where non-native immigrant communities have become permanently domiciled. The Commission proceeded to Africa in December 1927, returned to London in the following May, and has now published its report.[iii]
Obviously the value of the Commission's practical recommendations would depend upon its views as to the fundamental question whether white settlement is to be pushed in East Africa or whether native interests are to be put first. The Commission does not hesitate in stating its position. After declaring that "the contact between the white and black races in Africa constitutes one of the great problems of the twentieth century," it proceeds to state that the greater part of East Africa is not suitable for white settlement. For the most part the area must be developed by native production. East Africa should not be regarded "so much as a home for the white race, but as providing a source of supply of food-stuffs and raw materials. . . . The main contribution that European settlement . . . can make to the wealth of the world will be the stimulus it can give to the vast potentialities of native production." The Government is under an obligation to create and preserve a field for the full development of native life; once this is done, non-native immigration may be encouraged, if there appears to be room. Even then the Commission expresses doubts as to the possibilities of white settlement, because of climatic and social considerations.
It is easy to lay down the general principle that native interests are to be protected. The difficulty comes in applying this principle. Perhaps the greatest value of this report lies in its detailed recommendations regarding land, labor, and native administration policy. The Commission answers the question how much land should be set aside for native needs by declaring that the native population should be guaranteed an area sufficient to enable it to maintain a reasonable standard of living according to present methods of agriculture, and also to provide for such increases of population as may be expected before the natives have time to learn better or more intensive methods. Such native lands should be demarcated as a reserve, and no land within the reserve should as a rule be leased to Europeans. In addition to these reserves, the Government should have the power to set aside other lands which individual natives might purchase, or which might be added to the reserves. If any land is left over after these rules are applied, it might be alienated to Europeans. Within the native areas, the Government has a duty of developing native production and of controlling markets. Europeans should not be favored in regard to railway rates and the service of agricultural and veterinary officers.
Moreover, the Commission is insistent that European enterprise should be controlled so as not to disrupt native life. Excessive demands for native labor on the part of European enterprise must be "most damaging to native society and to the proper development of native political institutions." The report significantly adds that "it is necessary to regulate the number of natives who go out for temporary employment from the reserves so that the number of adult males absent at any time is not so great as to endanger the proper development of native social life and political institutions, and on the other hand to provide that those natives who leave the reserves and settle down to permanent employment in non-native undertakings are properly cared for." It is the business of the Government so "to regulate the influx of new settlers as to avoid creating demands for labor in excess of what can be supplied without disturbance of native conditions." The Government should prevent the destruction of tribal authority "until there has been time for the native people to assimilate the new ideas introduced by western civilization, and to adapt their institutions to new conditions." This enunciation of the principle that white settlement should be controlled so as to prevent excessive labor demands is of capital importance.
Having set forth these guarantees of native development, the Report proceeds to an examination of the political problem as it exists in Kenya. Here the settlers have been strong enough to secure eleven elected members on the Legislative Council. While this body still has an official majority, the elected members have often exercised a dominating influence. The Colonial Office in London is supposed to control the Legislature on behalf of imperial and native interests. But the convictions of the settlers have been so strong and so vociferously expressed that, according to the Commission, the Imperial Government has tended to surrender to the men on the spot. The remoteness of the controlling authority has been a great source of weakness.
Nevertheless, in the Commission's view, responsible government for Kenya is out of the question,[iv] for it would mean that a small European community, outnumbered by the natives 200 to 1, would have the right to govern not only themselves but also the native (and Indian) population. The British settlers in Kenya are as representative Englishmen as are to be found in the Empire. But it is not a matter of individual fitness; it is a matter of conflicting interests. The Commission likewise rejected Kenya's demand for an unofficial European majority in the legislature on the ground that such a step would inevitably lead to responsible government. It also ruled out the idea of dyarchy or of separate white and black areas on the ground that native interests are inseparable from non-native interests.
After rejecting the proposals advocated by many Europeans on the spot, the Commission now makes two concrete suggestions: (1) The official majority on the Legislative Council of Kenya should be abolished in favor of an unofficial, inter-racial majority. (2) A High Commissioner and a Governor-General for Eastern Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika) should be appointed to hold the balance between various races and to lay down and enforce a uniform native policy.
The proposed Kenya Legislative Council should continue to have eleven elected European members. But it should also contain four unofficial Europeans appointed by the Government to represent the native interests. The Commission made this recommendation in the belief that at present there were no native individuals suitable to serve on the Legislative Council. The Commission realized the difficulty in a colony as small as Kenya of finding Europeans disinterested and courageous enough to represent native interests. But it believed that returning officials as well as others could be induced to accept such a rank. The eleven elected Europeans, the four nominated European representatives of native interests, together with Arab and Indian members, would constitute an unofficial majority. The Commission believed that there are certain matters in regard to which the interests of all racial communities are alike, and one of its purposes in advocating this type of unofficial majority is to open the way to an increasing realization by all parties of these common interests. When an issue arose between native and non-native interests, the Government representatives on the Council would hold the balance of power. The elected Europeans, under this arrangement, would not be able to pass a measure which the Europeans representing native interests opposed, unless the elected Europeans found the official members upon their side. This unofficial majority by standing together might pass measures to which the Governor was opposed; but he should retain the veto power; while the Governor-General for East Africa should have the power to "certificate" the passage of necessary legislation, including financial measures.
How is the Indian population to be fitted into the system? As a result of a bitter controversy, the Indian population of Kenya were given the right to elect, on a communal franchise, five members to the Legislative Council, in comparison with eleven elected Europeans. They declined, however, to accept this compromise, and still demand a common electoral roll. The Commission frankly states its belief that the franchise was given to the Europeans in Kenya too hurriedly. And it expresses the belief that it should be abolished before it has taken deeper roots, in order to prevent conflicts arising out of inevitable demands by the Indians and detribalized natives. In its place, the Report advocates what it calls a "civilization" franchise applicable to all races alike. Though realizing its defects, the Commission, in view of the special conditions in East Africa, recommends that such a franchise should be based upon an educational and property test. While for the time being the number of elected Indian and European representatives on the Legislative Council should remain the same, the Commission states that "the ideal to be aimed at is a common roll on an equal franchise with no discrimination between the races." The High Commissioner should institute a test census to determine the approximate number of persons in each racial community possessing the proposed qualifications.
The Commission was insistent that a uniform native policy must be followed in all the East Africa territories. One policy could not be followed in Kenya, and another policy in Uganda and in Tanganyika. The natives were quick to see differences in policy, and they would develop a common consciousness. The Commission also believed that the effectiveness of Imperial control, supposedly exercised through local governors, should be increased. In a frontier community, there are few governors with stamina enough to resist the insistent demands of a European population. And it is to strengthen this control that the Commission recommends the appointment of a High Commissioner for Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika. He should institute inquiries with the view of bringing about uniformity in native policy and of unifying the control of certain administrative services. At the end of a preliminary period a Governor-General for Eastern Africa should be appointed. The Commission declared that his most important duty would be to supervise native policy in all of these territories and to see to it that the fundamental principles laid down by the Commission in regard to land, labor and native administration were enforced. He should make an annual report dealing with broad aspects of progress and policy. Local governors would continue to correspond directly with the Secretary of State; but the Governor-General could issue instructions in matters on which he wished to be consulted.
Is it possible to fit Tanganyika, a mandated territory, into this federation or closer union scheme? The Commission believed that it is. It cited the terms of the mandate which authorizes the establishment of a fiscal and administrative union or federation between the mandate and adjacent territories. It cited the precedents of British Togo and the Cameroons and of Ruanda-Urundi which have been incorporated with adjoining territories. The Commission states that the responsibility of Great Britain to the League in regard to Tanganyika will not be impaired by the establishment of federation. It might also have pointed out that in view of the uniform native policy to be laid down in East Africa, the mandates commission would have, in case of federation, an indirect influence upon policy throughout the whole territory.
Such are the outstanding provisions of this remarkable report. The Commission has been scrupulously fair to the European communities in East Africa. Nevertheless the report is a blow at the white settlement idea. It rules out responsible government and even European unofficial majorities. It rejects the argument made by British officials and settlers in the past that the semi-temperate climate of East Africa justifies a native policy which cannot be supported on the west coast. The Commission insists that the full development of the native population be guaranteed by the Imperial Government. It has converted the federation plan from a device to extend white settlement into a device to protect native interests more effectively. While it does not recite in detail the shortcomings of existing policy, the report as a whole is a quiet but fearless criticism of the policies which Kenya has followed in the past. The members of the Commission deserve the commendation not only of Englishmen but of the outside world for the intelligence which they have applied to one of the burning questions of the present day. If the British Government puts into force the recommendations of this report it will remove the basis of the criticisms hitherto directed against its East Africa policy. Nor can the report fail to have an important if not decisive effect upon the future of Africa as a whole.
Another important contribution to the science of inter-racial relations and of colonial government takes the form of the recently published report of the Donoughmore Commission on the Constitution of Ceylon, a report which shows a profound knowledge of the structure and purposes of administrative machinery and is crammed with political understanding.[v] The members of this Commission were the Earl of Donoughmore, Sir Matthew Nathan, Sir Geoffrey Butler and Sir T. Drummond Shiels.
Ceylon, a large island lying off the coast of India, was long ruled by the King of Kandy, and then fell successively under the domain of the Portuguese, Dutch and British. The island's chief resources are tea, rubber, cocoa and copra. Its population of about 5,000,000 is far from homogeneous, a fact which has increased the difficulty of administration. More than half of the people are Sinhalese, who in turn are divided into the Low Country and the Kandyan people. There are a little more than half a million Ceylon Tamils, who originally came from Southern India but who have become an integral part of the population and who are found in a large number of professional and clerical positions. There are 312,000 Moslems, the descendants for the most part of Arab traders, together with 15,000 descendants of Malays brought originally from Java by the Dutch. Indian immigrants to the number of 700,000 labor on the tea and rubber estates. Then there are 11,000 Europeans who carry on much of the business of the island, besides a small but important "Burgher" community, the descendants of Dutch settlers.
In an effort to give representation to these classes the government in 1910 established a legislative council consisting of eleven official and ten unofficial members. Of the latter, four were elected by the European, Burgher and Ceylonese communities and the remainder nominated by the Governor to represent for the most part racial groups. With the growth of education and the spread of political intelligence, which was reflected in the activities of the Ceylon National Congress, a demand arose for a council in which the people should have a majority of seats. In order to prevent the deadlocks which inevitably arise between a governor and an elected legislature with real power, the British have usually favored the system of official majorities. But they realized that they could not reject the Ceylonese demands, and hence cast about for a system which would meet the local demands and yet not impede the effective administration of the territory. The scheme, as finally adopted in 1920 and amended in 1923, established a Legislative Council containing 37 unofficial and 12 official members. In other words, the people were given a majority of seats. Twenty-three of the unofficial members were elected upon a territorial basis and the others (except for three nominated members) were elected by the racial or economic communities, according to the principle of "communal representation." In other words, the Indian population was allowed to elect two representatives, and so on for the other racial groups. In case this Council enacted legislation to which the government was opposed, the Governor could veto it. But what if the Council refused to enact legislation? To meet such contingencies the constitution provided that the Governor could certify that the passage of any measure was of paramount public interest, in which case it might be carried by the official members on the Legislative Council alone.
Despite this ingenious attempt to break deadlocks, many criticisms arose in Ceylon. It was for the purpose of investigating these criticisms that the commission headed by Earl Donoughmore was appointed.
In its report the Commission finds that many criticisms were justified. The unofficial majority of the Legislative Council had no executive responsibility and had become a permanent opposition to the Governor and to the civil service. Although the system had provided the unofficial majority with an education in the problems of government, it had not given them any administrative experience and it had turned them into permanently hostile critics. In not a single case had the Governor used his "certificate" power, because of the political difficulties and ill-feelings which it would have aroused. Instead of coming to the support of his officials when attacked, the Governor usually bowed to criticism, and as a result the officials were left "bewildered and disheartened"; their morale and initiative had been undermined. Officials had been obliged to serve two masters. "It is obvious," says the Commission, "that political progress cannot be in the best interests of the country if achieved at the expense of administrative efficiency." The system is "an unqualified failure."
In proposing reforms, the Commission was confronted with the alternative which the United States Government faces in Porto Rico and the Philippines -- either of going forward or of going back. In Ceylon, however, no responsible person recommended a return to the "Crown Colony" system and the suppression of liberties already granted to the people. "Apart from the well-recognized difficulty of taking back power once given, it would not seem the policy of justice or of statesmanship to have recourse to such a step, unless or until the inhabitants of Ceylon had manifestly failed to avail themselves of a chance of successfully managing their own affairs under conditions, which, unlike those at present obtaining, gave them a fair opportunity of doing so with success." On the other hand, the Commission does not recommend complete responsible government. The Ceylonese are not yet adequately trained in administration and the electorate consists of only four percent of the population. Moreover, there are no parties in the country. And even if there were such parties, the Commission does not think it wise to advocate the blind extension of a parliamentary system which was possibly already proving obsolescent at home. Every parliamentary session in London saw a more complete subordination of the House of Commons to the Cabinet, and the protest of the individual against his "supersession" in deliberative bodies has become almost world-wide.
What system does the Commission therefore propose? In the first place, it proposes that the Legislature shall continue to have its present unofficial majority but that it shall be reorganized so as to deal not only with legislative but with administrative matters. It is to be given the name of "State Council," and shall be divided into seven executive committees, each representing a department in the administration and each having a permanent official as secretary. Thus there shall be a committee on education, another on public works, and so on. Each committee shall nominate from its members a chairman who shall also be minister of the department concerned. In other words, a Ceylonese who is made chairman of the committee on public works shall also be minister of public works, and responsible therefore to the committee and the State Council. Under the minister will be a corps of permanent officials, both British and Ceylonese. This is the parliamentary system found in most governments of the world, with the added feature, apparently based on the commissions of the League of Nations and on the Swiss Government, that a legislative committee should immediately supervise administrative matters. In other words, the members of the committee will be given an education not only in the making of laws but in the actual day-by-day conduct of government. Collectively the Ceylonese ministers will constitute a Board of Ministers, and if the Council defeats their annual estimates or gives them a vote of no confidence they should resign. But (as in the case of the Swiss Government) the Commission did not think that there should be necessarily any collective responsibility and no provision is made for a prime minister. There should be full and free discussion -- mutual give and take between the chairman and the executive committee. It is only when the chairman finds himself in constant opposition to the majority, so that harmonious relations are endangered, that he should resign.
The Commission believed that the British authority should retain the power to check the indiscretions or abuses possibly arising out of this system.
It therefore recommends, first, that three ministers, called Officers of State, should not be responsible to the State Council, but should remain immediately responsible to the British Governor. These are the attorney-general, the treasurer, and the chief secretary. The attorney-general should supervise the administration of justice and the elections; the treasurer should be responsible for the preparation of the budget and disbursement of revenue; the chief secretary should be responsible for the drafting of legislation, public service administration and national defense. This division of departmental heads, seven being in the hands of the State Council and three in the hands of the British Government, is in certain respects similar to the division of executive heads in the government of Porto Rico.
In the second place, all the branches of the public service are to be manned by permanent officials, some of whom will be British, although responsible to a Ceylonese minister.
Thirdly, it is believed that certain safeguards should be erected to prevent the State Council from cutting the ground away from under the permanent civil service. The Commission did not believe that the State Council should be entrusted with the power to fix the salaries of these officials. Decision in such matters should be vested in the Colonial Office, although the State Council should be free to offer advice. Every ten years the Colonial Office should send to Ceylon a Periodical Salaries Commission to recommend a salary scale. Moreover, a Public Service Commission should be established to advise the Governor in regard to appointments and promotions (such commissions already exist in the Dominions and in India), thereby to a certain extent removing appointments and promotions from political pressure.
Finally, the Governor shall retain a right of veto. "For with every transference of responsibility to representative organs," says the Commission, "the Governor must be given such additional reserve powers as will enable him to see that this responsibility is not wrongly exercised." Nevertheless, the Commission recommends that the Governor should as a rule not veto a bill unless it contained provisions of a character bringing it within categories clearly defined in the constitution, such as bills relating to defense, imposing racial disabilities, or affecting the administration of justice. In addition, he should retain the "certificate" power. Likewise he should have the power to veto administrative measures. And the Commission laid stress upon giving the Governor power to refer back to the State Council any measure in the hope that a compromise might be reached. In the view of the Commission, "the functions of the Governor will in general be negative rather than positive, supervisory rather than executive. He will no longer be responsible himself for the administration of the island; his duty will be, first and foremost, to see that those on whom the responsibility will now fall do not infringe the principles enunciated in the constitution for their guidance. . . . But he must inevitably play a large part in establishing the new administration on a sound basis. In this task he must be more active as a brake, as a stabilizing force, and as an agent for reassuring the nervous that he could be under a system of full responsible government. But he must equally avoid the other extreme. . . ."
In passing judgment upon the franchise question the observations of the Commission are more interesting still. It concludes that the system of communal representation, in which each race or religion votes separately for its members, has not worked to the best interests of the island. Religious tolerance is essential in a country desiring democratic institutions; and if tolerance exists, there is no need for the protection of a particular faith which the special representation of a faith implies. The aim of communal representation had been to develop friendliness between the different communities. But in the Commission's opinion the very existence of communal representation had tended to prevent the development of such relations; only by its abolition could a true national unity be developed. Increased and new claims for communal representation were being made, so that instead of ten such groups in the Council the number might readily become fifty. This criticism of communal representation is bound to strengthen criticism of the same institution in Kenya and in India.
The Commission also rejects the system of proportional representation. But in order to prevent the Sinhalese from capturing all the seats, and in order to give the European community, among others, representation, the Commission proposes that after a general election the Governor should have the power to nominate to the State Council 12 unofficial members, of whom not more than six should be Europeans. In making such nominations the Governor should endeavor to make the State Council more generally representative of national interests. Altogether the new State Council will have 65 members elected upon a territorial basis.
At present the franchise in Ceylon is confined to men possessing certain property and literacy qualifications. As a result only four percent of the population may vote. Curiously enough, the Ceylon leaders, while advocating full responsible government, expressed satisfaction with the existing franchise. Fearing the establishment of oligarchy, and believing that the backward character of social and industrial legislation would be altered if the political circle were broadened, the Commission advocates a wider participation in the government. Its opinion seems to be that the greater the electorate the more difficult would corruption and manipulation become. Only by exercising the franchise could political intelligence be developed. The Commission believed that the property restriction was unsound. "A respectable citizen without property is more affected than an owner of property by the goodness or badness of the constituted authority. . . ." It did not even like the literacy test. Ability to read and write was no evidence of intelligence; the illiterate countryman with his "horse sense" is a better judge of character and wiser than many people with a little book-learning; newspapers and campaign literature sometimes give a less satisfactory view of candidates than thought and discussion in which it is possible for illiterate people to indulge. In Ceylon, where 45 percent of the children receive no education, a literacy test would have to be so elementary that it would be of little value as an educational goal. Many of the persons of low caste were illiterate, but they would be given a self-respecting status by means of the ballot. The franchise should not be confined to the educated classes because the development of responsible government required the influence of the rank and file. The Commission therefore recommends universal manhood suffrage over 21, and universal suffrage for women over 30.
Such is a sketch of the scheme proposed by the Donoughmore Commission. Its unique feature is that which invests administrative responsibility in the State Council. The plan has been vigorously criticized in some of its features by native members of the Legislative Council who feel that it does not grant them the authority they deserve.[vi] There are no doubt British officials who feel that the plan goes too far. While attack upon two fronts may not be exactly pleasant, it seems to show that the kernel of the report is sound.
LESSONS OF THE TWO REPORTS
Such are the provisions of these two reports. They are important because of their conclusions and because of their method. The problem of East Africa is of more immediate importance than the problem of Ceylon. Yet, in one sense, both problems concern the method of governing a "mixed state" or inter-racial community -- a problem of vital concern to the United States because of its negro population. The report of the Donoughmore Commission especially will influence the recommendations of the Simon Commission in India, and it should prove useful to those interested in the future of Porto Rico and the Philippines.
From the standpoint of method, these two reports are the embodiment of the scientific process applied to human relations. The members of the Commissions were economists, editors, professors, members of parliament, representatives of missionary enterprise. They were educated men, who knew how to read and to observe and to make use of experts placed at their disposal by the Colonial Office. Their reports are based upon evidence given by hundreds of witnesses representing every point of view; they reflect a sound knowledge of political science; they have obviously been motivated by a desire to do justice to every interest involved. It is in this method that the British Government is coming to excel; and it is this method that the United States Government needs to apply to its dependencies, and even more in its dealings with Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua.
[i] "The Destiny of East Africa," by R. L. Buell, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, April, 1928.
[ii] "Report of the East Africa Commission," Cmd. 2387 (1925) H. M. Stationery Office.
[iii] "Report of the Commission on Closer Union of the Dependencies in Eastern and Central Africa." Cmd. 3234 (1929) H. M. Stationery Office.
[iv] The chairman of the Commission dissented from this opinion, holding that while an elected majority is not suitable for the present, such a form is "perfectly reconcilable with our general scheme for the constitution of the Eastern Africa territories." Cmd. 3234, p. 245.
[v] "Ceylon: Report of the Special Commission on the Constitution," Cmd. 3131. July, 1928. H. M. Stationery Office.
[vi] See The Times (London), Nov. 2, 17, 1928. The Ceylon Legislative Council voted in favor of orthodox responsible government. To this Mr. Amery replied that it was quite impracticable to grant responsible government to Ceylon; while the Donoughmore report might be modified in detail, he would not accept any amendments which would destroy the balance of the scheme.