The Elements of Politics

Henry Sidgwick

Chapter 18

Principles of External Policy

§8. It remains to speak of the management of the relations between civilised settlers and the uncivilised tribes inhabiting the district into which immigration takes place---commonly called the ``aborigines''. It is not without hesitation that I venture to touch this question, as I can only treat it in a very brief and general way; while any student of the history of European colonisation must be profoundly impressed with its difficulty. What a well-informed writer, by no means unduly sentimental, calls the ``wretched details of the ferocity and treachery which have marked the conduct of civilised men in their relations with savages'', forms one of the most painful chapters in modern history; all the more painful from the frequent evidence it gives of benevolent intentions, and even beneficent efforts, on the part of the rulers of the superior race. At present in England there is a general agreement that the wellbeing of the uncivilised first-comers, found in regions colonised by civilised men, should be earnestly and systematically kept in view by the governors of these latter; and that the ``aborigines'' should be adequately compensated for any loss that they may suffer from the absorption of their territory---and ultimately of themselves---by the expanding civilised societies. It is therefore permissible to hope that in the future some closer approach may be made to the realisation of this ideal than has been made in the past.

The question assumes different forms in what may be distinguished as (1) colonies of settlement where the manual labour can be and will be supplied by the civilised race; and (2) colonies---only called so in a looser sense---in which it can only supply capital and superior kinds of labour. In the first case the main difficulties of the problem are likely to be transient; the incoming tide of civilised immigration will gradually modify or submerge the barbarism of the aborigines; so that ultimately the question, how to deal with such of them as may survive without becoming really fit for civilised work, will sink into a part of the general question of dealing with the incapable and recalcitrant elements found in all civilised communities. But in its early stages the collision of races is likely to be more intense in colonies of this class; since the process of settlement inevitably involves more disturbance of the economic conditions of the life of the aborigines.

On the other hand, in colonies where the superior race does not supply the manual labour, the difficulties of governing a community composed of elements very diverse. in intellectual and moral characteristics must be expected to last indefinitely longer; but there is no stage at which the conflict of interests need be quite so acute as in the former case.

Of the two cases just distinguished the former has been most important in our past history; but its importance is rapidly diminishing, and in most of the territories open to the future expansion of civilised European States, manual labour is likely to be mainly performed by non-European races. I do not propose here to discuss in detail the method of dealing with either of the cases above distinguished; but only to indicate briefly the nature of the problems that arise and the principles prima facie applicable to them, in accordance with the general view of politics taken in the present treatise. And, in doing this, I shall not attempt to distinguish between the international duty and the interest of the civilised nation aiming at expansion. I believe that here, as elsewhere, duty and interest are mostly coincident, but I could not undertake to prove that this is so in all cases. In what follows, therefore, I must be understood to have in view, as the ultimate end, the aggregate happiness of all the human beings concerned, civilised and uncivilised---native or imported. It does not seem possible---even if it were desirable---to check the expansion of civilised Europe: consequently, the problem of regulating and governing composite social aggregates, with a civilised minority superimposed on a semi-civilised majority, must be regarded as one of the most important proposed for European statesmanship in the proximate future.

1. The first point demanding attention is the general claim of a civilised State to supreme control---whether as ``Sovereign'' or ``Protector''---over territory inhabited by uncivilised tribes. This claim has to be considered in two aspects (1) as excluding the claims of other civilised States to expand into the same territory; and (2) as asserting rights of interference with the previous inhabitants of the territory. The conditions of its validity from the former point of view belong to an earlier part of the discussion: here we are only concerned with the claim so far as it affects the aborigines. It would be going too far to say that no exercise of power over these latter is justifiable, unless the general consent of the persons subjected to it may be presumed from agreements formally made by their chiefs or on some other adequate ground. But we may say that no serious interference of the civilised government with the aborigines should take place without such evidence of consent, except under circumstances which afford a special justification for it;---as (e.g.) when the civilised State has been victorious in a war provoked by the aggression of the inferior race, or when the interference is necessary for the security of its own subjects in the exercise of rights that they may fairly claim, or to protect the natives from the evils of intercourse with the most lawless and degraded elements of civilised society. Further, the claim of sovereignty should not be understood to carry with it any obligation to interfere with the laws and customs of the aborigines, even when opposed to civilised morality. Such interference should be regulated by an unprejudiced regard for the social wellbeing of the tribes subjected to it; which might be seriously impaired by the sudden abolition even of pernicious customs.

2. In regulating the relations between aborigines and settlers, the care of Government will be specially needed to prevent the interests of the former from being damaged through the occupation of land by the latter. We may lay down that the aborigines should never be deprived of any definite rights of property without full compensation; and that, so far as possible, such rights should be only ceded voluntarily. I cannot, indeed, hold that compulsory transfer is in principle inadmissible; since I cannot regard savages as having an absolute right to keep their hunting-grounds from agricultural use, any more than an agricultural occupant in a civilised State has a right to prevent a railway from being made through his grounds. Still, compulsory deprivation should be avoided as far as possible, even where it may seem abstractly justifiable, on account of the violent resentment that it is likely to cause. Further, the civilised government should supervise carefully the sale of lands by natives to private settlers; it may even be expedient, in the earlier stages of colonisation, that Government alone should have the right of purchasing such lands; in order that undue advantage may not be taken of the ignorance of the aborigines, and that difficulties arising from complicated and vaguely defined rights of joint-ownership may be properly dealt with. Further, even where the aborigines have not been accustomed to claim or recognise any definite rights of property in the lands occupied by the settlers, I conceive that adequate compensation for the loss of the utilities in the way of hunting, fishing, etc., which they have been accustomed to derive from such lands, is none the less due to them.

3. Further restrictions on the freedom of intercourse and exchange between aborigines and settlers may be temporarily necessary; the extent of which experience only can determine, as the need for them will vary with the degree of intellectual and social development reached by the inferior race. Familiar instances of such restriction are the prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquors, and the prohibition of the sale of firearms: but in some cases a more complete separation of races, and a more thorough tutelage of the inferior race, would seem to be temporarily desirable. It is, indeed, hardly likely that this kind of artificial isolation can ever be more than partially successful. I think, therefore, that such measures should generally be regarded as essentially transitional, and only adopted---if at all---in order better to prepare the aborigines for complete social amalgamation with the colonising race.

4. In any case the protection of the lives and property of the settlers will require effective prosecution and exemplary punishment of crimes against them: at the same time, it will be the imperative duty of Government to keep such punishment within the limits of strict justice. The difficult task of fulfilling this double obligation is likely to be better performed if those charged with it are not hampered by pedantic adhesion to the forms of civilised judicial procedure: what is important is that substantial justice should be done in such a manner as to impress the intellect of the aborigines with the relation between offence and punishment.

5. 1 have spoken of industrial education as an indispensable part of the compensation due from the civilised intruders. But their educational task should not be limited to this: it should include all kinds of instruction required to fit the inferior race to share the life of civilised mankind. In particular, though the religion of the settlers should not be compulsorily imposed on the natives, every encouragement should be given to the efforts of missionaries to teach it. Experience seems to show that the potency of such teaching as an instrument of civilisation varies very much in different cases, but few will doubt the desirability of allowing full scope to its application.

6. One of the most indisputable services that---as we may hope---the expansion of civilised States is destined to confer on uncivilised humanity is the abolition of the evils of enslavement, and of the wars and raids that have enslavement for their object; and, ultimately, of the condition of slavery. But it may often be expedient that this latter result should be only gradually attained: while, on the other hand, even where the status of slavery is formally excluded by law, special restrictions on freedom of contract between natives and settlers are likely to be required in the case of contracts of service; since, if such contracts are left unrestricted, there is some risk that the inferior race may be brought too completely into the power of private employers. This point is of course peculiarly important in the case of colonies in which the superior race cannot or will not undertake the main part of the manual work required: in this case the demand of the capitalist employer for a steady supply of reliable labour led modern civilisation in its earlier stage back to the institution of slavery in an extreme form: and prompts even now to longing aspirations after some system of compulsory labour, which shall have the economic advantages of slavery without its evils. But I know no ground for thinking that such a system can be devised: and should accordingly deprecate any attempt to approximate to it. I do not therefore infer---as some have inferred---that contracts of long duration ought to be prohibited altogether; but only that they ought to be carefully supervised and closely watched. The need for this vigilance arises equally---it may be even greater---when the labourers in question are not natives, but aliens belonging to a lower grade of civilisation; at the same time there are strong economic reasons for introducing labour from abroad in colonies of this class, where the natives are either not sufficiently numerous or wanting in industrial capacity.

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