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Prior to the Conference of 1907 there were four Colonial Conferences (three in London and one in Ottawa). A brief account of these five Conferences follows:
Invitations to the Conference of 1887 were addressed to the Governors of all the Colonies in view of the celebration of the Jubilee of the reign of Her
Majesty Queen Victoria. All the then self-governing Colonies sent Conference delegates, as well as Natal and Western Australia, and represenof 1887. tative gentlemen from some of the larger Crown Colonies attended (See C. 5091.) meetings at which matters of interest to these dependencies were discussed. The proceedings were opened on the 4th of April with an address from the President, Sir Henry Holland, afterwards Viscount Knutsford, in which he reviewed the progress of the Empire during Her Majesty's reign and indicated the object for which the Conference had been summoned. The most prominent question discussed was the organisation of Colonial Defence, and an agreement was arrived at for the increase of the Australasian Squadron. Five fast cruisers and two torpedo gunboats were to be added to the squadron, the Colonies paying, for maintenance and depreciation of these vessels, 126,000l. per annum for ten years. All the Colonial Legislatures passed the necessary legislation for giving effect to this arrangement, and vessels for service on the Australasian Station reached Australia in September, 1891. The defence of the stations of King George's Sound and Thursday Island were also fully discussed, but no final decision was arrived at. It was also agreed that an Imperial Officer should be selected to inspect the Colonial forces and military defences. Among the other questions which came before the Conference were the provision for the Government of British New Guinea, and it was agreed that Queensland, acting with New South Wales and Victoria, should contribute 15,000l. a year for ten years for this purpose, the Imperial Government undertaking to provide a suitable steamer and maintain it for three years at an estimated cost of 29,000l. Queensland passed the necessary legislation in 1887, and the proclamation of sovereignty over the territory took place on the 4th September, 1887.
A full interchange of views on the relations of the Australasian Colonies with the Islands in the Pacific took place between Her Majesty's Government and the Colonial delegates, and the Conference unanimously approved the position taken up with regard to Samoa, and also the proposal for a joint Anglo-French Naval Commission for the preservation of the neutrality of the New Hebrides.
Among other questions discussed were the Australian and Pacific Mail services, telegraphic communication with Australia, the proposal for an Imperial Penny Post, the adoption of similar legislation with regard to merchandise marks and patents, and the enforcement of Colonial judgments and Orders in Bankruptcy.
In pursuance of the arrangement as to the inspection of the local forces of Australasia referred to above, Major-Gen. Sir Bevan Edwards, K.C.M.G., C.B., visited all the principal Colonies during 1890, and inspected their forces and defences. One result of his report was that it showed the importance of a closer union of the Australasian Colonies, and at the instance of Sir H. Parkes, the Premier of New South Wales, an Inter-colonial Conference was held in Melbourne during 1890, to consider the question of Federation. The result of its proceedings and also of the proceedings of the Federation Convention which followed will be found in the account of Australia. A Conference of Australasian Prime Ministers was held at Hobart in 1895 to discuss the question, and measures were passed by all the Colonies except Queensland for the election of delegates (ten from each Colony) to draft a Constitution Act. The delegates were elected in February, 1897, and prepared the basis of a constitution. The later developments are described under the heading "Australia."
During 1894 a Colonial Conference was held at Ottawa, on the invitation of the Dominion Government, to consider the question of trade and communications
Conference of 1894.
between the Colonies, and between the Colonies and the Mother Country. Delegates attended from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand and from (See C. 7553.) the Cape Colony, and resolutions were passed urging the removal of legislative or treaty obstacles to preferential tariff treatment within the Empire, the establishment of a mail service between Great Britain and Australasia, via Canada, and the connection of Canada and Australasia by a cable under British control. A Committee of representatives of the Imperial and Colonial Governments was appointed in 1896 to consider the question of this cable, and eventually the execution of the project was decided on and a Board constituted to manage the undertaking. The work of laying was commenced in 1902.
The distinguishing event of the year 1897 was the celebration of the completion of the sixtieth year of the reign of Queen Victoria. Early in the year invitations were
Conference of 1897.
addressed to the Prime Ministers of all the self-governing Colonies to attend the celebration in London as guests of the Queen. The (See C. 8596.) Prime Ministers, eleven in number, accepted and attended. Advantage was taken of their presence to hold a conference between them and the Secretary of State for the discussion of various questions of common interest. The proceedings were private, but a summary was presented to Parliament (C. 8596, July, 1897), in which were published the opening address by Mr. Chamberlain, setting forth the subjects of discussion, a short statement by Mr. Goschen on the question of naval defence, with special reference to the Australian naval agreement, and the resolutions arrived at by the Conference. It was generally agreed that the meeting had been most conducive to the interests of the Empire, and that it would be well to hold similar meetings in the future when occasion offered. As a result of a resolution passed at the Conference the existing commercial treaties with Germany and Belgium were denounced on the 30th of July, in order that the fiscal relations between the Mother Country and the Colonies might be completely independent of fiscal relations with foreign countries. This question had been brought prominently to the front by a Tariff Act passed in Canada, giving preferential treatment to the Mother Country, and the resolution was passed unanimously by the Conference largely in consequence of the urgent request of the Dominion Government. The matter of Imperial defence received much attention, and an offer was made by Sir J. Gordon Sprigg, on behalf of Cape Colony, to present a first-class battleship as a contribution to the British navy-for which a contribution in money was afterwards substituted. Advantage was taken of the presence in London of the Prime Ministers of the selfgoverning Colonies in connection with the Coronation of King Edward VII, in 1902, to discuss with them various important questions of general interest, especially the political and commercial relations of the Empire and its naval and military defence. In the result a very considerable improve(See Cd. 1299.) ment was arranged, subject to the approval of the Parliaments concerned, in the terms of the Australasian Naval Agreement, by which the effectiveness of the squadron to which it related, as part of the naval force of the Empire, was to be greatly increased, and the amount of the Colonial contribution towards the maintenance of the squadron raised from 126,000l. a year to 240,000l. Premiers of Cape Colony and Natal intimated their desire to increase their unconditional contributions to the Navy from 30,000l. and 12,000l. to 50,000l. and 35,000l. respectively. Newfoundland agreed to contribute 3,000l. a year towards the expense of a branch of the Royal Navy Reserve established in the Colony, on the condition that the number should be raised to 600 men. Various resolutions were passed respecting commercial relations.
Conference of 1902.
The last Colonial Conference (thereafter to be designated the Imperial Conference) was held in 1907, in which the Prime Ministers of all the self-governing Colonies took
Conference of 1907.
part, including the Transvaal, where the first elections under responsible government had just taken place. At the opening meeting, on April 15th, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman welcomed the Colonial represen(See Cd. 3523.) tatives on behalf of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The primary subject for consideration was that of the future Constitution of the Conference, raised by Mr. Lyttelton's despatch of 20th April, 1905, proposing the establishment of an Imperial Council. The resolution adopted (which is quoted above) provided for the meeting of an Imperial Conference every four years between His Majesty's Government and the Governments of the self-governing Dominions beyond the Seas, with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as ex-officio President, the Secretary of State for the Colonies taking the chair in his absence; and also provided that a permanent secretarial staff should attend to the business of the Conference during the period between its meetings. In the course of discussion Lord Elgin undertook so to alter the organisation of the Colonial Office that there should be a separate division dealing with the self-governing Dominions. The manner in which this undertaking was carried out by him is explained in his despatch of 21st Sept., 1907 (Cd. 3795).
The Conference affirmed the need of developing a General Staff, selected from the forces of the Empire as a whole, to study military science in all its branches. With regard to naval defence, Australia indicated a desire to make provision for a local force, diverting to its service the subsidy paid to the Admiralty under the Naval Agreement.
The members of the Conference, with exception of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, re-affirmed the resolutions of the Conference of 1902 on the subject of Preferential Trade within the Empire, His Majesty's Government being unable to admit that it was necessary or expedient to alter the fiscal system of the United Kingdom. Among other subjects brought before the Conference were the improvement of mail communication with Australia, via Canada, the promotion of emigration to British Colonies, the adoption of uniform conditions of naturalisation throughout the Empire, uniformity in Company law, in trade statistics and in trade marks and patents, and the codification of the rules governing appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
In consequence of the Parliamentary discussions concerning the naval position which took place in March, 1909, the offers of " Dreadnoughts" from New Zealand and
Defence Conference, 1909.
(See Cd. 4948.)
Australia, and the Resolution passed by the Canadian House of Commons on the 29th March, His Majesty's Government decided to convene a special conference to discuss Naval and Military Defence, under the terms of Resolution I. of the Conference of 1907. The Conference, at which all the then self-governing Dominions were represented, met for the first time on the 28th July, 1909, and for the last on the 19th August. The main results of the Conference were as follows:(1.) The offers of New Zealand and of Australia to contribute a battleship each were accepted, with the substitution of cruisers of the new "Indomitable" type for battleships. The two ships were to be kept one on the China and the other on the Australian Station.
(2.) Australia was to provide and maintain, with some temporary assistance from Imperial funds, an Australian unit of a general Pacific Fleet. The unit was to consist of a cruiser of the "Indomitable" type, three second-class cruisers of the "Bristol" type, six destroyers of the "River" class, and three submarines of "C" class.
(3.) Canada was to make a start with cruisers of the "Bristol" class and destroyers of an improved "River" class.
(4.) New Zealand was to continue her policy of a money contribution to be spent on the China unit of the Pacific Fleet. The cruiser of the "Indomitable " type given by New Zealand was to be the flagship of this unit.
(5.) In regard to military defence, a plan was drawn up in outline for so organizing the forces of the Crown, wherever they might be, that they might be capable of being rapidly combined into one homogeneous Imperial army.
The South African delegates were not, of course, in a position to submit or approve any definite proposals as the Union of South Africa was then in process of establishment.
In accordance with the agreement arrived at at the Defence Conference, the Commonwealth of Australia placed orders through the Admiralty for the Second Class Cruisers required; Canada purchased the "Rainbow" and "Niobe"; orders were placed for the cruiser to be given by New Zealand, and in Canada and Australia Naval Defence Acts were passed, under which the Naval Defence Forces are governed by principles similar to those in force in the Imperial Navy.
In 1910 a Subsidiary Imperial Conference was convened to consider the subject of Imperial copyright. The Conference was held in May and June, and discussed fully
Copyright Conference, 1910.
(See Cd. 5272.)
the questions of the maintenance of the unity of copyright legislation throughout the Empire, and the desirability of the Empire accepting the Revised Copyright Convention of Berlin (1908). The Governments of all the Dominions were represented, and resolutions were passed in favour of the adoption of a uniform copyright law for the Empire, and in favour of the acceptance of the Revised Copyright Convention, subject to certain reservations. In accordance with the resolutions of the Conference an Imperial Copyright Act was passed in 1911. Legislation adopting its provisions was passed by the Commonwealth of Australia and Newfoundland in 1912, and by the Union of South Africa in 1916, and an Act, based on the Imperial Act, was passed in New Zealand in 1913. Legislation on the subject of copyright was also passed in Canada in 1921 and 1923, and came into effect on 1st January 1924.
Steps were taken in accordance with the fifth resolution of the Conference of 1907 to pass new Orders in Council respecting appeals from the Supreme Courts of New Zealand, the six Australian States, the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, while Orders in Council respecting procedure were passed in respect of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Union of South Africa. In accordance with the wishes of the Conference, steps were taken for the appointment of Trade Commissioners in the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand and the Union of South Africa, and a paid correspondent of the Board of Trade was appointed in Newfoundland. These officers perform with regard to matters of trade much the same functions as are performed by His Majesty's consuls in foreign countries.
Action on Resolutions of 1907
Steps were taken to secure greater uniformity in the laws of the Dominions with regard to trade marks and patents. Moreover, the trade statistics of the Dominions were modified with a view to showing more clearly the trade with the United Kingdom, British possessions, and foreign countries.
Uniformity in company law was, in part, effected by legislation in the Transvaal in 1909, in Victoria in 1910, and in British Columbia. Moreover, the legislation of the Parliament at Westminster was consolidated in 1908.
Correspondence relating to Conference Work from May, 1907 to July, 1910, was published in Cd. 5273.
In accordance with the Resolution of the Conference of 1907, the first Conference which was officially styled "Imperial" was held in May and June, 1911. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom presided, the chair being Imperial Conference, taken in his absence by the Secretary of State for the Colonies,
1911. and, on one occasion, by the Prime Minister of Canada. The Prime (See Cd. 5745.) Ministers of all the Dominions were present, besides two other Ministers from Canada, Australia and the Union of South Africa, one other Minister from New Zealand and one from Newfoundland. The question of the constitution of the Conference and the reconstruction of the Colonial Office was considered at length, but a majority of the representatives were of opinion that no fundamental change was necessary.
The Conference also considered the question how far the Dominion Governments could be consulted with regard to Treaties, with special reference to the fact that the Declaration of London of 1908 was not submitted to the Dominions for approval before it was concluded. The representatives of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom proposed, and the representatives of the Dominions agreed, that in future the Dominions should be afforded an opportunity of consultation when the instructions to be given to British delegates at meetings at the Hague Conference were being framed, that Conventions affecting the Dominions provisionally assented to at that Conference should be circulated to the Dominion Governments before they were officially signed, and that a similar procedure, where time and opportunity and subject matter permitted, should, as far as possible, be used when preparing instructions for the negotiation of other international agreements affecting the Dominions. It was also agreed that, with a view to relieving the Dominions of obligations under most favoured nation" clauses in Treaties concluded years ago and binding on the Dominions, His Majesty's Government should open negotiations with several foreign Governments having such Treaties with a view to securing liberty of any Dominion to withdraw from the operation of the Treaty without impairing the Treaty as respecting the rest of the Empire.
The question of an Imperial Court of Appeal was discussed at length, and it was proposed, and accepted that two Lords of Appeal should be added to the number of four already existing so that their services might be available both for service in the House of Lords and for service on the Judicial Committee.
The question of emigration to the Dominions also came up. The President of the Local Government Board showed that the numbers then emigrating were fully as large as could safely be spared by the United Kingdom. It was agreed that the present policy of encouraging British emigrants to proceed to British Dominions rather than to foreign countries should be continued and that full co-operation should be accorded to any Dominion desiring immigrants.
The discussion of the question of Naturalisation resulted in an Agreement on the main principles on which Naturalisation in one of the Dominions should be recognised in other parts of the Empire.
The question of improved Cable communications was considered and the Postmaster General of the United Kingdom was able to announce the prospect of important reductions from January 1st, 1912, in rates for deferred messages and in Press Cables. It was also agreed that a chain of Wireless Telegraph Stations should be constructed from the United Kingdom, via Cyprus, Aden, Bombay and Singapore, to some point in Australia from which there would be communication over the land