|The Growth of the British Empire|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book V of the Story of the World Series. Treats the revolutions in South America and Mexico, the Boer War in South Africa, and the exploration of Central Africa, the Greek and Italian wars for independence, the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the opening of trade with Japan and China, and the rebellion in India. Ages 13-18 |
WELDING THE EMPIRE
"Sons be welded, each and all,
Into one Imperial whole;
One with Britain, heart and soul—
One life, one flag, one fleet, one throne."
 IN the beginning of the nineteenth century, communication was slow and difficult, not only between town and town,
but also between country and country. The introduction of penny post, railway, and telegraph ushered in a new
era into the world's history—a new era, too, in the history of England, whose Empire plays so large a
part in the progress of the world to-day.
Into the position she now holds, she has sprung within the memory of man, by reason of her success in
If communication between town and town was difficult, between the mother country and the colonies it was
laborious indeed. In early Victorian days, the colonies were regarded as "inconvenient encumbrances"; indeed,
one Colonial Secretary had so little idea of the geography of the colonies he had undertaken to govern, that he
begged a friend to get some maps and show him "where the places were." When a British emigrant left his native
shores he sailed in the old wooden three-decker, never to return. It was the ready substitution of
 steamers for sailing-ships, that gave England a rapid lead over other nations. With her ready reserve of coal
and iron, large commercial interests, her realm "bound in with the triumphant sea," she built hastily and
competed successfully with Europe and America. This bridging over of the rough ocean seas, this shortening of
distance from shore to shore, brought the colonies within measurable distance of the mother country, until
to-day Canada can be reached by steamer in seven days, South Africa in fifteen days, India in sixteen days, and
Australia in thirty-five days.
With this growing annihilation of space, England was free to carry on her great mission for which she was so
well fitted—of carrying freedom, justice, and equity across the broad seas. She sent forth her sons to
their distant homes, knowing they would be true-born Britons to the end. France had her colonies, Germany had
hers; but for various reasons, they had not the vigorous growth permitted to those, which to-day form so large
a part of the British Empire. Still England seemed utterly indifferent to her colonies at this time: even the
union of Canada in 1867 stirred no enthusiasm in the mother country. Australia, India, New Zealand, and the
lesser possessions were treated as foreign countries.
It was the Queen herself, who led the way to the new idea of welding the colonies closer to the mother country:
she was one of the first to realise
 the glorious heritage upon which she had entered, with its great message of freedom and hope,—
"Because ye are Sons of the Blood,
and call me Mother still."
Her proclamation as Empress of India in 1877 brought that country into closer touch with England. Dusky Indians
were brought over to guard their Empress, which they did to the end with the most faithful devotion; while,
among her manifold pressing duties, she laboriously tried to learn their language.
In 1884 Canadian boatmen took part in Lord Wolseley's expedition up the Nile to the relief of Gordon, while the
following year New South Wales enthusiastically offered a contingent.
"Men, horses, and guns are ready to start," they wrote, "and we desire to pay the cost."
From this time onwards, the colonists have bravely taken their share in the troubles of their mother country.
Yet a further step was gained, when the Indian and Colonial Exhibition was opened in London in 1886, at which
an amazing display of the vast resources of the Empire revealed the unknown to wondering Britons. Great
enthusiasm prevailed, and more than one poet burst into song:
"To-day we seek to bind in one,
Till all our Britain's work be done;
Through wider knowledge closer grown,
As each fair sister by the rest is known."
 A new spirit of brotherhood dawned, and past indifference gave way to an ever increasing interest well
described by Kipling—
"Those that have staid at thy knees,
Mother, go call them in;
We that were bred over-seas,
wait and would speak with our kin.
. . . . . . . .
Hear, for thy children speak from
the uttermost parts of the sea."
As time went on the idea of union grew and grew, till in 1887, at the Queen's Jubilee, an Imperial note was
struck, and the bond of Empire immensely strengthened.
In the magnificent procession through the great capital of the British Empire at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in
1897, passed subjects from every corner of the vast inheritance on which
"the sun never sets." There were
richly-clad Indians, stalwart Maoris from New Zealand, lancers from Tasmania and the Australian colonies,
troops from Canada, Cape Mounted Rifles, Natal volunteers. There were yeomen from Trinidad, artillery from
Malta and Jamaica, Haussas from West Africa, Dyak police from North Borneo, men from the Straits Settlements,
Hong-kong, and Ceylon, while the Premiers from the self-governing colonies were cheered to the echo by their
grateful countrymen in England. When war broke out, two years later, between England and the Republics in South
Africa, offers of help poured in from the colonies, to be gratefully accepted by the mother country.
"Let this thing be. Who shall our realm divide?
Ever we stand together, Kinsmen, side by side."
 Meanwhile science too was at work welding this great Empire. By means of submarine cables, already messages
were rapidly transmitted from country to country. The scheme for an All-British submarine cable had long been
under discussion, but it had been coldly looked upon till Mr. Chamberlain, as Colonial Secretary, regarded it
as part of his Imperial policy. Then suddenly was fulfilled the prophecy of Shakspere's Puck: "I'll put a
girdle round the earth in forty minutes." At three o'clock on October 31, 1902, the last link in the
All-British Pacific submarine cable was completed, and messages from Australia to England can be transmitted in
an hour instead of a day. The practical use of electricity, as a means of communication, is rapidly
annihilating space to-day; while one of the most wonderful inventions of the age is Marconi's wireless
telegraphy, by which ships at sea can be communicated with, and the fleet summoned in case of danger.
Thus briefly we have sketched the change of feeling, that came over the relation of the mother country to her
colonies during the nineteenth century. Distant and isolated possessions are fast developing into a united
Empire, the bonds of which must of necessity be drawn closer and closer.
But an Empire "broad-based upon the people's will," resting not alone on arms or force or trade, but on the men
who have created it, is perhaps
 the finest example of Imperialism yet known to mankind.
Let us now see how it lies with the men and women of the future—joint heirs and partners in the glories
and traditions of the British Empire, to be good citizens of their vast inheritance.
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