The Elements of Politics

Henry Sidgwick

Chapter 18

Principles of External Policy

§7. The case is materially different when the question is of promoting emigration to territory---whether newly acquired or not---under the control of the government. In this case we must estimate more highly the advantage of extension of trade, and also of enlarged opportunities for the employment of private capital; there is also, as we saw, the sentimental satisfaction of the desire of national expansion; there is in some cases a gain of increased strength to the State,---though this, of course, depends on the situation of the territory colonised: and finally, there is some prospect of recovering---even for the public treasury---a portion of the expense of subventing emigration, from the value of the land and its contents in the newly settled region. This last element is of varying importance; but it might conceivably be so considerable as both to defray the extra expense thrown upon Government by the process of colonisation---including the cost of facilitating access to the land by roads, harbours, etc., as well as the cost of surveying it for sale or lease,---and also to contribute a part of the cost of transporting emigrants. Experience, however, seems to show that, generally speaking, taking into account the risk of conflict with aborigines and of collisions with other civilised states, the cost of founding a colony will outweigh any returns obtainable to the public treasury of the mother country; and that the extra cost cannot be thrown on the colonists, since, so long as the colony is weak, it is too poor to bear it, while, when it has grown richer, it will also have grown stronger, and will refuse to pay. Still, for the reason before given, even where colonisation is a bad investment from the point of view of public finance, it may still be remunerative in one way or another to the community as a whole.

In the present state of the world, the founding of a new colony, adapted to the reception of European immigrants on a large scale, is not a very probable event. But the business of promoting the settlement of unoccupied land remains of some practical importance, though such land as is still available and suitable lies chiefly within the territories already under civilised government. I propose, therefore, briefly to consider the chief special functions that will devolve on Government in connexion with this business, viz. (1) the disposal of the land available for settlement, (2) the encouragement (if required) of immigration, and (3) the management of the relations between the settlers and the aborigines. The two former functions, as we have already noticed, are closely connected, since it is the land available for settlement that will normally supply the chief resources for encouraging immigration. There are two essentially distinct modes of employing it in this way, each of which admits of several minor modifications; (a) it may be granted to settlers, under conditions formed to secure its cultivation, either without payment or for a payment below its market value; or (b) it may be sold or let at the market rate, and the proceeds used to defray the whole or a part of the cost of conveying suitable emigrants. Whether either of these methods should be adopted, and if so which method, will depend on several considerations; such as the distance of the region of immigration from the native home of the settlers whom it is designed to attract, the quality and extent of its natural resources, the amount of labour and capital required to turn them to most profitable account, and last, but not least, the probability of obtaining an adequate supply of immigrants without special encouragement.

i. Where the emigration into unoccupied districts is mainly continental---as in the United States---so that the new settlements are continuously connected by older ones with fully peopled territory, the method of directly contributing a part of the cost of transporting emigrants is obviously less needed, and would be difficult to apply in a regular way. In this case, if the returns from the land when sold or leased at the rate financially most profitable should be more than sufficient to pay the cost of accurate surveying and roadmaking, and any special expenses entailed by the relations with the aborigines, it would seem better to employ them in aiding the construction of railways or other elaborate instruments of communication, or else as a substitute for taxation. And this may also be best even where the region of immigration is separated by a long sea voyage from the region of emigration, if a sufficient supply of emigrants can be obtained without the special attraction of an artificially reduced cost of transport or settlement.

ii. If such special attraction is thought to be required to quicken and amplify the stream of immigration, we have to consider whether this will be best given by cheapening transport or cheapening land. The former method may be the more effectual, if the region to be colonised is one which offers valuable special facilities for producing wares for the world's markets, so as to promise a remunerative return to capital employed on a large scale if only it can obtain an adequate supply of labour. For in this case it may be possible to find purchasers or tenants for the land at a comparatively high price, provided that a considerable portion of the funds thus obtained be spent in transporting suitable labourers: and the high price, while it affords a fund for defraying or reducing the cost of immigration, will at the same time prevent the rapid acquisition of land by the labourers, so as to keep their services available for capitalist employers.

iii. On the other hand, where the land offers no special facilities for production for the outside market, the prosperous development of its resources seems to depend on attracting settlers who will cultivate the land largely with a view to subsistence for themselves and their families; in this case the most suitable encouragement to immigration seems to be to give the land to such settlers at a low or merely nominal price, under proper conditions of residence and cultivation. If this does not suffice to attract colonists who can pay their own expenses, the further step may be taken of giving cheap or gratuitous transport to carefully selected immigrants, and charging the land granted to them with the debt incurred. It would be too sanguine to expect that the whole of the cost incurred can be thus recovered; since a certain percentage of failures among the settlers can hardly be prevented by the most careful selection: still with good management there seems no reason why the amount recovered should not be so considerable as to render it worth while to incur the inevitable loss, in the interests of national expansion.

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