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THE POLITICIAN'S HANDBOOK
A DIGEST OF DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENCE, TREATIES, REPORTS OF ROYAL COMMISSIONS, SELECT
SUMMARY OF SELECTED CONSULAR REPORTS ON
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Statistical and Historical Annual of the States of the World, for the Year 1899. Edited by J. Scott Keltie, LL.D., Secretary to the Royal Geographical Society. Thirty-sixth
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The object of the Editor and Publishers of the Politician's Handbook is to furnish the Political, Literary and Commercial classes, and the public generally, with the essential information given from time to time in Diplomatic Correspondence, Blue Books, Parliamentary Papers, Treaties, Consular Reports, and other Documents issued by the Government. It will be published at the opening of each Parliamentary Session, or oftener, and with such additions and improvements as experience may suggest. The volume is divided into two SectionsPolitical and Commercial. In the first will be found abstracts of all Official Documents which record Diplomatic Proceedings affecting our relations with Foreign Powers, and Administration throughout the Empire. In the second section a digest is given of the more important Consular Reports on British Trade Abroad. Each section is alphabetically arranged.
The utility of the volume will be seen by a glance at its pages. If a Member of Parliament wishes to know with exactness what concessions have been granted by China to European Powers he will turn to “China” and, under that heading, will find the Diplomatic Correspondence of the year clearly summarised. When a leader-writer on a morning journal receives at midnight a brief telegram, saying, let us assume, that the Macdonald Mission has succeeded or has met with disaster, he has but to turn to “ Uganda” to find official information which will enable him to give an intelligible exposition of the message. Or should the news upon which he has to write relate to the conflicting claims of France and England with respect to the boundary to be drawn between the Possessions of the former Power and the Valley of the Nile, a reference to “Egypt” will yield a précis of the contentions advanced by the Diplomatists on either side during the “Fashoda Crisis,” and the text of the Convention for the administration of the Soudan. At the same time the book is not merely a bald summary. The intention has been not only to separate the chief facts from a mass of triviality and conventional verbiage, and to set them forth in their due proportion, but also to record the ideas in relation to them. Quotations, therefore, are freely introduced. The text of all important passages is incorporated. Lord Salisbury, Mr. Chamberlain, or whoever the writer of a Despatch or Report may be, himself speaks wherever the points made are of vital consequence. Whatever the international topic upon which a public speaker or writer wishes to refresh his mind, he will here find a combination of definite knowledge and suggestion.
And as with the publicist so with the trader. Does a merchant wish to obtain a share of the commerce of Japan? He has but to refer to “ Japan," in the Commercial Section, to be made acquainted with the results of Consul Brenan's investigations. A cross-reference in the article will lead him to the New Treaty which comes into force in July next and will revolutionise our business relations with this great Asiatic Power. With whatever part of the world affected by questions of Imperial policy a merchant or manufacturer does business, he will find such light upon the commercial situation as can be extracted from Consular Reports. The interdependence of Commerce and Politics is borne in mind throughout in the preparation of this work. For example, space has been liberally given to Trade reports from the Far East, from Africa, and from South America. Since modern politics consist of a struggle between the Powers of Europe, the United States and Japan for the retention of existing and the discovery of new markets, the principle observed is that those Consular Reports are worthy of notice which show where and how British trade may be retained and extended, or why it is passing into the hands of rival nations. A complete survey of our trade abroad is not attempted. The Consular Reports from places in Europe are not, except in a few cases, included. All that is done is to bring forward in the Commercial section such facts about British trade as bear upon present and prospective topics within the range of international politics or Imperial administration. Thus the inquirer will find nothing about the trade of Genoa, but much about that of China. The man of business, who looks to statesmen to keep existing markets open and, by skill in diplomacy, to create new areas for trade, will, it is suggested, find the Political section a useful complement of the Commercial, just as the Commercial section will be to the publicist a necessary addition to the Political.
It may be said that the classes to whom the Handbook appeals can buy the Official Documents for themselves. The Government offers them at a ridiculously cheap rate per pound avoirdupois. But of those who buy, how many have the leisure to read ? Who preserves Blue Books ? Of those who do, who can spare the time to plod through official formalities of phraseology to find a vital passage only vaguely suggested by the memory? No man of ordinary mental capacity can hope to remember the points with sufficient accuracy for them to be used in Debate or in Literary work. And whoever attempts to preserve the Documents would, in a year or two, have every room in his house or offices filled with them. It is true that Journalists are expected to carry the information contained in this Handbook in their heads, and to keep abreast of the modifications it undergoes. But it is because the present writer is a Journalist, and in almost nightly need of putting his recollection of public affairs to the test of reference to Official Documents—at times when every moment spent in research causes despair to the printer—that he has thought a record such as this will be welcomed by every politician. What, therefore, Editor and Publishers have aimed at is to spare public men, platform speakers and writers the inconvenience of storing Diplomatic and other Blue Books either in their libraries or in their minds. Their object has been to give the essence of Official Publications with such clearness and conciseness-informed, it may be, by knowledge of the trend of public affairs—that, by a few minutes study of the Handbook, the inquirer will be placed on an equality, so far as acquaintance with the salient official facts can place him, with the expert in this or that branch of current political and commercial information.