Nations of Europe and the Great War - Charles Morris

Great Britain and her Colonies

How England became Mistress of the Seas

Great Britain as a Colonizing Power—Colonies in the Pacific Region—Colonization in Africa—British Colonies in Africa—The Mandi Rebellion in Egypt—Gordon at Khartoum—Suppression of the Mandi Revolt—Colonization in Asia—The British in India—Colonies in America—Development of Canada—Progress in Canada.

In the era preceding the nineteenth century Spain, France, and Great Britain were the great colonizing Powers, the last named being the latest in the field, but rapidly rising to become the most important.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


The active Powers in colonization within the nineteenth century were the great rivals of the preceding period, Great Britain and France, though the former gained decidedly the start, and its colonial empire today surpasses that of any other nation of mankind. It is so enormous, in fact, as to dwarf the parent kingdom, which is related to its colonial dominion, so far as comparative size is concerned, as the small brain of the elephant is related to its great body.

Other Powers, not heard of as colonizers in the past, have since come into this field, though too late to obtain any of the great prizes. These are Germany and Italy, the latter having recently added to its acquisitions by the conquest of Tripoli. But there is a great Power still to name, which in its way stands as a rival to Great Britain, the empire of Russia, whose acquisitions in Asia have grown enormously in extent. These are not colonies in the ordinary sense, but rather results of the expansion of an empire through warlike aggression. Yet they are colonial in the sense of absorbing the excess population of European Russia. The great territory of Siberia was gained by Russia before the nineteenth century, though within recent years the Russian dominion in Asia has greatly increased, and has now become enormous, extending from the Arctic Ocean to the borders of Afghanistan, Persia and the Asiatic empire of Turkey.

Great Britain as a Colonizing Power

With this preliminary review we may proceed to consider the history of colonization within the recent period. And first we must take up the results of the colonial enterprise of Great Britain, as much the most important of the whole. In addition to Hindustan, in which the dominion of Great Britain now extends to Afghanistan and Thibet in the north, the British acquisitions in Asia now include Burmah and the west-coast region of Indo-China, with the Straits Settlements in the Malay peninsula, and the island of Ceylon, acquired in 1802 from Holland.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


In the eastern seas Great Britain possesses another colony of vast dimensions, the continental island of Australia, which, with its area of nearly 3,000,000 square miles, is three-fourths the size of Europe. The first British settlement was made here in 1788, at Port Jackson, the site of the present thriving city of Sydney, and the island was long maintained as a penal settlement, convicts being sent there as late as 1868. It was the discovery of gold in 1851:to which Australia owed its great progress. The incitement of the yellow metal drew the enterprising thither by thousands, until the population of the colony is now more than 4,000,000, and is still growing at a rapid rate. There are other valuable resources besides that of gold. Of its cities, Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, with its suburbs, has more than 500,000 population; Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, 600,000, while there are other cities of rapid growth. Australia is the one important British colony obtained without a war. In its human beings, as in its animals generally, it stood at a low level of development, and it was taken possession of without a protest from the savage inhabitants.

Colonies in the Pacific Region

The same cannot be said of the inhabitants of New Zealand, an important group of islands lying southeast of Australia, which was acquired by Great Britain as a colony in 1840. The Maoris, as the people of these islands call themselves, are of the bold and sturdy Polynesian race, a brave, generous, and warlike people, who have given their new lords and masters no little trouble. A series of wars with the natives began in 1843 and continued until 1869, since which time the colony has enjoyed peace. It can have no more trouble with the Maoris, since there are said to be few more Maoris. They have vanished before the "white man's face." At present this colony is one of the most advanced politically of any region on the face of the earth, so far as attention to the interests of the masses of the people is concerned, and its laws and regulations offer a useful object lesson to the remainder of the world.

In addition to those great island dominions in the Pacific, Great Britain possesses the Fiji Islands, the northern part of Borneo, and a large section of the extensive island of Papua or New Guinea, the remainder of which is held by Holland and Germany. In addition there are various coaling stations on the islands and coasts of Asia. In the Mediterranean its possessions are Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus, and in America the great colony of Canada, a considerable number of the islands of the West Indies, and the districts of British Honduras and British Guiana.

The history of colonization in two of the continents, Asia and Africa, presents certain features of singularity. Though known from the most ancient times, while America was quite unknown until four centuries ago, the striking fact presents itself that at an early date in the nineteenth century the continents of North and South America had been largely explored from coast to center, while the interior of Asia and Africa remained in great part unknown. This fact in regard to Asia was due to the hostile attitude of its people, which rendered it dangerous for any European traveler to attempt to penetrate its interior. In the case of Africa it was due to the inhospitality of nature, which had placed the most serious obstacles in the way of those who sought to enter it beyond the coast regions. This state of affairs continued until the latter half of the century, within which period there was a remarkable change in the aspect of affairs, both continents being penetrated in all directions and their walls of isolation completely broken down.

Colonization in Africa

Africa is not only now well known, but the exploration of its interior has been followed by political changes of the most revolutionary character. It presented a virgin field for colonization, of which the land-hungry nations of Europe hastened to avail themselves, dividing up the continent between them until, by the end of the century, the partition of Africa was practically complete. It is one of the most remarkable circumstances in history that a well-known continent remained thus so long unexplored to serve in our own days as a new field for the outpouring of the nations. The occupation of Africa by Europeans, indeed, began earlier. The Arabs had held the section north of the Sahara for many centuries, Portugal claimed—but scarcely occupied—large sections east and west, and the Dutch had a thriving settlement in the south. But the exploration and division of the bulk of the continent waited for the nineteenth century, and the greater part of the work of partition took place within the final quarter of that century.

In this work of colonization Great Britain and France stand foremost in energy and success. Today the British possessions and protectorates in Africa embrace 2,132,840 square miles; or, if we add Egypt and the Egyptian Soudan—practically British territory—the area occupied or claimed amounts to 2,446,040 square miles. The claims of France, including a large area of the Sahara desert, are much larger, covering 4,000,000 square miles. Germany lays claim to 930,000; Italy, to 591,000; Portugal, to 800,000; Spain, to 86,600; the Congo Free State, to 500,000; and Turkey to the 363,200 square miles of Egypt. The parts of Africa unoccupied or unclaimed by Europeans are a portion of the Desert of Sahara, which no one wants; Abyssinia, still independent; Morocco, a French protectorate; and Liberia, a state over which rests the shadow of protection of the United States.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


British Colonies in Africa

Of the British colonial possessions in Africa the most important is that in the far south, extending now from Cape Town to Lake Tanganyika, and including an immense area replete with natural resources and capable of sustaining a very large population. This region, originally settled in the Cape Town region by the Dutch, was acquired by the British as a result of an European war. Subsequently the Boers—descendants of the Dutch settlers—made their way north, beyond the British jurisdiction, and founded the new colonies of the Transvaal Republic and the Orange Free State. The British of Cape Town at a later date followed them north, settling Natal, defeating the Zulu blacks and acquiring new territory, and eventually coming into hostile contact with the Boers.

Defeated at first by the latter, a war of conquest broke out in 1899, ending in 1902 with the overthrow of the Boer republics, after a brave and vigorous resistance on their part. Under the ambitious leadership of Cecil Rhodes and others, British dominion in South Africa was extended northward over the protectorates of Rhodesia and Basutoland, reaching, as stated, as far north as Lake Tanganyika and embracing an area of about 1,300,000 square miles. Other British colonial possessions in that continent include the large province of British East Africa, covering 520,000 square miles, a large area in Somaliland and possessions on the west coast of 150,000 square miles area. To these, in a minor sense of possession, should be added Egypt, now extending to British East Africa.

We have mentioned the respective regions held by other European nations in Africa, France surpassing Great Britain in colonial area though not in population. Among the French African possessions are included the great island of Madagascar, lying off the east coast of the continent. Mention should be made here of the extensive and promising Congo Free State, under the suzerainty of Belgium. Covering eight hundred thousand square miles, it comprises the populous and richly agricultural center of Africa, its vast extension of navigable waters yielding communication through its every part.

The occupation of Africa, at least that part of it which became British territory, was not consummated without hostile activities. The most recent of these was the long war between the Boer and British armies, the final success being a costly and not very profitable triumph of the British arms. Of other hostile relations may be mentioned the invasion of Abyssinia by a British army in 1867, the suppression of the revolt of Arabi Pasha in 1879, and the series of events arising from the Mahdist outbreak in 1880.

The Mahdi Rebellion in Egypt

The latter events call for some mention; and need to be preceded by a statement of how Britain became dominant in Egypt. That country had broken loose in large measure from the rule of Turkey during the reign of the able and ambitious Mehemet Ali, who was made viceroy in 1840. In 1876 the independence of Egypt was much increased, and its rulers were given the title of khedive, or king. The powers of the khedives steadily increased, and in 1874–75 Ismail Pasha greatly extended the Egyptian territory, annexing the Soudan as far as Darfur, and finally to the shores of the lately discovered Victoria Nyanza. Egypt thus embraced the valley of the Nile practically to its source, presenting an aspect of immense length and great narrowness.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


Soon after, the finances of the country became so involved that they were placed under European control, and the growth of English and French influence led to the revolt of Arabi Pasha. This was repressed by Great Britain, which bombarded Alexandria and defeated the Egyptians, France taking no part. As a result the co-ordinate influence of France ended, and Great Britain was left as the practical ruler of Egypt, which position she still maintains.

In 1880 began an important series of events. A Mohammedan prophet arose in the Soudan, claiming to be the Mandi, a Messiah of the Mussulmans. A large body of devoted believers soon gathered around him, and he set up an independent sultanate in the desert, defeating four Egyptian expeditions sent against him, and capturing El Obeid, the chief city of Kordofan, which he made his capital in 1883.

The effort to subdue the outbreak proved a long and arduous one, and was accomplished only after many years and much loss to the British and Egyptian forces. No time was lost in sending an army against the fanatical Arabs. This was led by an English officer known as Hicks Pasha. He fell into a Mahdist ambush at El Obeid, and after a desperate struggle, lasting three days, his force was almost completely annihilated, Hicks being the last to die. Very few of his men escaped to tell the tale of their defeat.

Other expeditions of Egyptian troops sent against Osman Digna ("Osman the Ugly"), a lieutenant of the Mandi, similarly met with defeat, and the Mahdists invested and besieged the towns of Sinkat and Tokar.

To relieve these towns, Baker Pasha, a daring and able British leader, was sent with a force of 3,650 men. Unfortunately, his troops were mainly Egyptian, and the result of preceding expeditions had inspired these with a more than wholesome fear of the Mahdists. They met a party of the latter, only about 1,200 strong, at a point south of Suakim, on the Red Sea. Instantly the Egyptians broke into a panic of terror and were surrounded and butchered in a frightful slaughter.

"Inside the square," said an eye-witness, "the state of affairs was almost indescribable. Cavalry, infantry, mules, camels, falling baggage and dying men were crushed into a struggling, surging mass. The Egyptians were shrieking madly, hardly attempting to run away, but trying to shelter themselves one behind another." "The conduct of the Egyptians was simply disgraceful," said another officer. "Armed with rifle and bayonet, they allowed themselves to be slaughtered, without an effort at self-defense, by savages inferior to them in numbers and armed only with spears and swords."

Baker and his staff officers, seeing affairs were hopeless, charged the enemy and cut their way through to the shore, but of the total force two-thirds were left dead or wounded on the field. Such was the "massacre" of El Teb, which was followed four days afterwards by the capture of Sinkat and slaughter of its garrison.

To avenge this butchery, General Graham was sent from Cairo with reinforcements of British troops. These advanced upon Osman and defeated him in two engagements, the last a crushing one, in which the British lost only 200 men, while the Arab loss, in killed alone, numbered over 2,000.

Gordon at Khartoum

These events took place in 1884 and in the same year General Charles Gordon—the famous Chinese Gordon—ascended the Nile to Khartoum, to relieve the Egyptian garrison of that city. He failed in this, the Arabs of the Soudan flocking to the standard of the Mandi in such multitudes that Khartoum was cut off from all communication with the north, leaving Gordon and the garrison in a position of dire peril.

It became necessary to send an expedition for their relief, this being led by Lord Wolseley, the hero of the Zulu and Ashanti wars. This advanced in two sections, a desert and a river column. Two furious attacks were made by the Mahdists on the desert troops, both being repulsed with heavy loss. On reaching the river, they proceeded in steamers which Gordon had sent down the Nile to meet them. But there was unavoidable delay, and when the vicinity of Khartoum was reached, on January 28, 1885, it was learned that the town had been taken and Gordon killed two days before. All his men, 4,000 in number, were killed with him.

Suppression of the Mahdi Revolt

After this misfortune the Arabs were left in possession for nearly twelve years, no other expedition being sent until 1896, while it was not until 1898 that the Anglo-Egyptian forces reached the vicinity of Khartoum. They were commanded by General Kitchener, one of the ablest of British soldiers. His men were well drilled and very different in character from those led by Baker Pasha. They met the Arabs at Omdurman, near Khartoum, and gave them a crushing defeat, more than 10,000 of them falling, while the British loss was only about 200. This ended the Arab resistance and the Soudan was restored to Egypt, fourteen years after it had been taken by the Mandi.

Brief mention of the holdings of other nations in Africa must suffice. Germany has large areas in East Africa and Southwest Africa, with smaller holdings elsewhere. The possessions of France extend from Algeria and Tunis southward over the Sahara and the Soudan, with holdings on the east and west coasts. Portugal has large, feebly held districts in the south-central coast region, and Italy holds small districts on the Red Sea and Somaliland and the recently acquired Tripoli. Spain's holdings are on the coast of Morocco and the Sahara.

Colonization in Asia

The colonizing enterprise in Asia within recent years has been confined to Great Britain, France and Russia, which nations have gained large possessions in that great continent. Russia has made its way during several centuries of conquest over Siberia and Central Asia, until its immense possessions have encroached upon Persia and Afghanistan in the south and China in the east. At present, while the dominion of Russia in Europe comprises about 2,000,000 square miles, that in Asia is more than 6,500,000 square miles, the total area of this colossal empire being more than equal in area to the entire continent of North America.

The possessions of other nations in Asia are, aside from small holdings on the Chinese coast, in the south of that continent. Holland has a group of rich islands in the Indian Ocean, Portugal some small holdings, and France a large area in Indo-China, gained by invasion and conquest. This includes Cambodia, Cochin-China and Tonquin, won by hard fighting since 1862.

Great Britain, in addition to the extensive peninsula of India, with the neighboring rich island of Ceylon, has of late years acquired the fertile plains of Burmah, now included in its Empire of India, the whole covering an area of nearly 2,000,000 square miles. Its other Asiatic possessions include Hong Kong, in China; the Straits Settlements and other Malay states; Borneo and Sarawak, and Aden and Socotra, in Arabia.

The British in India

The British control of India began with the founding of commercial settlements early in the seventeenth century. Areas of land were gradually acquired, and rivalry began later between England and France for the control of Indian territory. The power of the British East India Company in India was largely extended by the military operations of the famous Lord Clive, and under Warren Hastings, a later governor of unscrupulous character, received new accessions.

During the nineteenth century many accessions of territory were made, the one threat to British dominion in the peninsula being the great Sepoy rebellion, or Indian Mutiny, which needed all the resources of the Company to overcome. The most important event that succeeded was the taking over the powers of government, so far exercised by the East India Company, and vesting them in the Crown, which assumed full control of the now immense holdings of the Company. Subsequently came the raising of India to the dignity of an empire, and the adding to the title of Queen Victoria the further title of Empress of India. Since that period the establishment of British dominion in India has become almost complete, extending to the Himalayas in the north, and over Baluchistan in the west and Burmah in the east. As a result India, Canada and Australia have become the great trio of semi-continental British colonial possessions, India being far the richest and most populous of them all.

Colonies in America

We have next to deal with the British colonial possessions in America, including the great Dominion of Canada and Newfoundland, and the minor holdings of British Guiana, British Honduras, and the several islands of Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbadoes, the Bahamas and the Bermudas. Of these Canada is the only one that calls for notice here.

Occupying the northern section of the western hemisphere lies Great Britain's most extended colony, the vast Dominion of Canada, which covers an immense area of the earth's surface, surpassing that of the United States, and nearly equal to the whole of Europe. Its population, however, is not in accordance with its dimensions, though of late it is growing rapidly, being now over 7,000,000. The bleak and inhospitable character of much the greater part of its area is likely to debar this region from ever having any other than a scanty nomad population, fur animals being its principal useful product. It is, however, always unsafe to predict. The recent discovery of gold in a part of this region, that traversed by the Klondike River, has brought miners by the thousands to that wintry realm, and it would be very unwise to declare that the remainder of the great northern region contains no treasures for the craving hands of man. So far as the fertile regions of Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan are concerned, the recent demonstration of their great availability as wheat-producing territory has added immensely to our conception of the national wealth of Canada, which promises to become one of the great wheat-growing regions of the earth.

First settled by the French in the seventeenth century, this country came under British control in 1763, as a result of the great struggle between the two active colonizing powers for dominion in America. The outcome of this conquest is the fact that Canada, like the other colonies of Great Britain, possesses a large alien population, in this case of French origin.

Development of Canada

At the opening of the nineteenth century the population of Canada was small, and its resources were only slightly developed. Its people did not reach the million mark until about 1840, though after that date the tide of immigration flowed thither with considerable strength and the population grew with some rapidity. In 1791 the original province of Quebec had been divided into Upper and Lower Canada, a political separation which by no means gave satisfaction, but led to severe political conflicts. As a result an act of union took place, the provinces being reunited in 1840.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


Upper Canada, at the opening of the eighteenth century, was only slightly developed, the country being a vast forest, without towns, without roads, and practically shut out from the remainder of the world. The sparse population endured much suffering, which, in 1788, deepened into a destructive famine, long remembered as a terrible visitation. But it began to grow with the new century, numbers crossed the Niagara River from the States to the fertile lands beyond, immigrants crossed the waters from Great Britain and France, Toronto was made the capital city, and the population of the province soon rose to 30,000 in number. Lower Canada, however, with its old cities of Quebec and Montreal, and its flourishing settlements along the St. Lawrence River, continued the most populous section of the country, though its people were almost exclusively of French origin. The strength of the British population lay in the upper province.

In time the confederation which existed between the two larger provinces of Canada became unfitted to serve the purposes of the entire colony. The maritime provinces began to discuss the question of local federation, and it was finally proposed to unite all British North America into one general union. This was done in 1867, the British Parliament passing an act which created the "Dominion of Canada." The new confederation included Ontario (Upper Canada), Quebec (Lower Canada), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Four years later Manitoba and British Columbia were included, and Prince Edward's Island in 1874. Since then other additions have been made. A parliament was formed consisting of a Senate of life members chosen by the prime minister and an Assembly elected by the people.

The important questions which have arisen in Canada since the dates above given have had largely to do with its relations to the United States and its people. One of the most troublesome of these was that relating to the productive fisheries on the banks of Newfoundland and the coasts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. For years the problem of the rights of American fishermen in these regions excited controversy. Several partial settlements have been made and in 1877 the sum of $15,000,000 was awarded to Great Britain in payment for the privileges granted to the United States. A treaty was signed in 1888 for the settlement of this vexatious question, and in 1912 a decision of The Hague tribunal decided it to the satisfaction of both parties.

The discovery of gold on the Klondike River in 1896 developed another problem, that of the true boundary between Alaska and Canada. At first, under the belief that the gold region was in Alaska, it brought a rush of American miners to that region. But it was soon found that the mining region was in Canada and the mining laws imposed by the Canadian authorities were bitterly objected to by the American miners. The question of boundary has since been definitely settled and the present boundary line marked out by a scientific commission.

The industrial development of the country within recent years has been great. Agriculturally the development of the fertile wheat fields of the middle west is of the most promising character, while railway progress has been highly encouraging. The building of the Canadian Pacific Railway was a remarkable enterprise at the time of its construction. Recently Canada is approaching a position of rivalry with the United States in this particular, a new transcontinental line, the Grand Trunk Pacific, having been completed in 1914, while the Canadian Northern is rapidly progressing.

Progress in Canada

Railways have spread like a network over the rich agricultural territory along the southern border land of the Dominion, from ocean to ocean, and are now pushing into the deep forest land and rich mineral and agricultural regions of the interior and the northwest, their total length in 1914 approaching 30,000 miles.

These roads have been built largely under different forms of government aid, such as land grants, cash subsidies, loans, the issue of debentures, and the guarantee of bonds of interest.

In manufacturing industry almost every branch of production is to be found, the progressive enterprise of the people of the Dominion being great, and a large proportion of the goods they need being made at home. The best evidence of the enterprise of Canada in manufacture is shown by the fact that she exports many thousand dollars worth of goods annually more than she buys—England being her largest customer and the United States second on the list.

Not only is the outside world largely ignorant of the importance of Canada, but many of her own people fail to realize the greatness of the country they possess. Its area of more than three and one-half millions of square miles—one-sixteenth of the entire land surface of the earth—is great enough to include an immense variety of natural conditions and products. This area constitutes forty per cent of the far extended British empire, while its richness of soil and resources in forest and mineral wealth are as yet almost untouched, and its promise of future yield is immense. The dimensions of the dominion guarantee a great variety of natural attractions. There are vast grass-covered plains, thousands of square miles of untouched forest lands, multitudes of lakes and rivers, great and small, and mountains of the wildest and grandest character, whose natural beauty equals that of the far-famed Alpine peaks. In fact, the Canadian Pacific Railway is becoming a route of pilgrimage for the lovers of the beautiful and sublime, its mountain scenery being unrivaled upon the continent.

In several conditions the people of Canada, while preserving the general features of English society, are much more free and untrammeled. The caste system of Great Britain has gained little footing in this new land, where nearly every farmer is the owner of the soil which he tills, and the people have a feeling of independence unknown to the agricultural population of European countries. There has been great progress also in many social questions. The liquor traffic, for instance, is subject to the local option restriction; religious liberty prevails; education is practically free and unsectarian; the franchise is enjoyed by all citizens; members of the parliament are paid for their services; and though the executive department of the government is under the control of a governor-general appointed by the Crown, the laws of Canada are made by its own statesmen, and a state of practical independence prevails. Recognizing this, and respecting the liberty-loving spirit of the people, Great Britain is chary in interfering with any question of Canadian policy, or in any sense in attempting to limit the freedom of her great transatlantic colony.