Sir Robert Bond's Protest at the Colonial Conference of 1907
[Canadian Annual Review, 1907; for full citation, see the end of the text]
An important incident of the Conference was Sir Robert Bond's presentation of Newfoundland 's grievances in an elaborate speech following the above discussion. His main argument was that if the Imperial Government failed to support the Colony in carrying out a local statute and suspended, or abrogated, or arbitrated, such a statute at the instance of the United States, it was committing a serious infringement on local autonomy. Sensational reports of this speech and of some alleged friction over its terms were published in England and cabled to Canada , but they were characterized by Mr. Winston Churchill in the Commons as "a baseless and impudent fabrication" and by Sir Robert Bond himself as being entirely untruthful. There were similar reports of one of Mr. Deakin's speeches in which he was alleged to have charged the Government with turning a "cold shoulder" to the Conference. In an explanation to that body it appeared that his reference was to the attitude of a series of Governments toward the question of emigration to the Colonies. But, so far as Colonial opinion was concerned, the harm was done. The Toronto Mail and Empire, for instance, on May 15th, had a two-columned heading to a United States despatch describing the first incident as one of "gross humiliation" to Sir R. Bond. Another incident was Mr. Deakin's clever picture of the Colonial Office position as not being one of rudeness or indifference to the Colonies: "The complaint we have to make is of an attitude of mind. A certain impenetrability; a certain remoteness, perhaps geographically justified; a certain weariness of people much pressed with affairs and greatly over-burdened, whose natural desire is to say 'Kindly postpone this; do not press that'" On May 9th a discussion took place upon Naval defence with the First Lord of the Admiralty and others. No formal conclusion was come to,. but on the following day Lord Tweedmouth issued a statement containing the following paragraph: "The First Lord of the Admiralty agreed that it was a matter for the Colonies how far they would assist by subsidy and how far by local defence, and that what His Majesty's Government desired was the cordial help of the Colonies in the most effective manner, and in the form most acceptable to the several Dominions beyond the sea." The Resolutions of the Conference other than those already given may be summarized as follows:
1. That in deciding upon alternative cable routes care should be given to strategic considerations and to the partial utilization of receipts for the gradual extinguishment of subsidies.
2. That uniformity in the naturalization laws of the Empire is desirable so far as practicable and that a subsidiary Conference should be held to deal with this important question.
3. That the promotion of greater freedom and further development of commercial intercourse within the Empire might be best secured (without prejudice to other Resolutions passed) "by leaving to each part of the Empire liberty of action in selecting the most suitable means for attaining them, having regard to its own special conditions and requirements and that every effort should be made to bring about co-operation in matters of mutual interest."
4. That Colonial efforts in favour of British manufactured goods and British shipping should be supported as far as practicable.
5. That (Dissent recorded by the Imperial Government) the condition of the Navigation laws of the Empire requires attention; that the advisability of refusing the privileges of coastwise trade throughout the Empire to countries in which the corresponding trade is confined to ships of their own nationality should be considered; that the laws affecting shipping should be examined with a view to promoting Imperial trade in British vessels.
6. That the Imperial Government be requested to prepare for the information of Colonial Governments a statement showing the privileges conferred and obligations imposed on the Colonies by existing Commercial treaties with a view to making the obligations and benefits uniform throughout the Empire.
7. That all doubts should be removed as to the right of self-governing dependencies to make reciprocal and preferential fiscal agreements with each other and with the United Kingdom and that such rights should not be fettered by Imperial treaties or conventions without their concurrence.
8. That uniformity in the granting and protection of trade marks and patents should be provided for throughout the Empire wherever practicable.
9. That greater uniformity is desirable in the trade statistics and Company laws of the Empire together with reciprocity in the examination and authorization of land surveyors.
10. That international penny postage is desirable.
11. That whenever so desired in connection with any Colonial reference to the expert opinions of the Committee of Imperial Defence a representative of such Colony should be in attendance as a member of the Committee.
12. That it is desirable to encourage British emigrants to proceed to British Colonies rather than Foreign countries.
Source: J. Castell HOPKINS , The Canadian Annual Review of Public Affairs, 1907, Toronto, The Annual Review Publishing Company, 1908, pp. 328-330.
© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College