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THE GROWTH OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE.
1. We have hitherto confined our attention to the geography of Great Britain and Ireland ; but those islands form but a small part—the most important part, indeed, but still only a small part—of the British Empire. Vast islands and extensive countries in all parts of the world—under the burning sun of the tropics, in the frozen regions of the north, as well as in the more temperate regions of the earth—forty colonies and groups of colonies, embracing an area measuring nearly eight millions of square miles, and sufficient in extent to make sixty “United Kingdoms "-all help to make up that vast British Empire on which, as it has been said, "the sun never sets."
2. Fifteen centuries ago England was a colony of Rome. Seven centuries later the country became a compact kingdom under the Norman rule ; but even then, according to the Domesday Book, there were only 300,000 heads of families—in all, probably a population of less than two millions. During the next five centuries the population had more than doubled itself, for in 1575 it was estimated at four and a half millions. Scotland was joined to England in 1603, and the English and Scotch Parliaments were united in 1707. Ireland yielded in name to Henry II. in 1282, and acknowledged Henry VIII. as king in 1541, but it retained its own parliament till 1801, when the country became a part of the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.”
3. It was not till the sixteenth century that European nations began to establish colonies in distant parts of the world. The Portuguese and Spaniards were the first to lead the way; but the Dutch, French, and English, were not slow to follow. In the year 1600 the English East India Company was formed for the purpose of trading with India, and in a few years “ factories” were established, and the foundation of the British power of the great Empire of India was laid. About the same time colonies were formed in the West India Islands—not long before covered by Columbus—and in North America. Towards the close of the same century Ceylon was wrested from the Dutch, Australia was taken possession of, and New South Wales became a British colony; and early in the present century Cape Colony and New Zealand were joined to the dominion of the British crown.
4. The rapid growth of the British colonial empire is shown by the fact that whereas in 1760 the total population, exclusive of Great Britain, was less than six millions, in 1880 it numbered about two hundred and fifty millions.
5. The colonies have been acquired in various wayssome by discovery and settlement, more by conquest and treaty, and a few by purchase. To the first belong such colonies as those of North America, Australia, and New Zealand, where the original and native inhabitants were
To North America went the “Pilgrim Fathers to escape persecution in the reign of James I., and founded colonies in that part now called the “United States." To Canada, Australia, and New Zealand trend every year between one and two hundred thousand emigrants, who, from depression of trade or other causes, fail to make a satisfactory living at home, or who may be guided by a spirit of adventure, or a desire to try their fortunes in a country where there is less competition than in the United Kingdom.
6. During the many wars with European nationsDutch, French, and Spaniards—in the past two hundred years the English have wrested the greater part of their foreign possessions from them, and others have been ceded or handed over by agreement when the wars were ended. Many of these are smaller possessions, some are
even small islands far away in mid-ocean. These, and others obtained by purchase, are mostly strongholds, or safe harbours, chiefly valuable for the protection they afford to the larger colonies and to our commercial marine in all parts of the world.
7. Strictly speaking, a colony is a body of persons who, having left their native country, fix on a new home in a distant land, but who still remain subjects of the British crown.
In time, however, the name came to be applied to the country inhabited by the colonists, and it is now sometimes used in a wider sense, as including not only the colonies proper, but also countries like India, vhich are governed rather than colonised by the English
8. The colonies may be divided into three classes, according to their forms of government. The first class consists of the Crown colonies. These are subject countries. They are entirely under the control of the British Crown. A chief-called a Governor, or President
and other officers are appointed to act for the Home Government. Such are India and many of the smaller possessions retained as protective stations. The second class includes those which have their own Houses of Parliament, or Legislative Councils, chosen by the people; but the Home Government appoints the Governor, exercises control over the public officers, and retains the power of forbidding the making of any laws to which it objects. Such are the governments of many of the West India Islands. In the third and most important class the Home Government simply appoints the Governor, and has no control over any other public officer.
The Legislative Councils make their own laws, and the Governor is expected to take the advice of his ministers, just as in England the Sovereign acts under the advice of her Privy Council. Such are the governments of most of the colonies proper, as Canada, Cape Colony, Australia, and New Zealand. Domesday Book.—A book compiled by order of William the Con
queror, containing a survey of all the lands in England. It was commenced in 1080, and completed in six years.
Factories.- In this case not places of manufacture, but places where
factors or agents reside for buying and selling, and transacting
other business connected with trade. Pilgrim Fathers.—People who did not approve of the form of
worship established by civil law in England; and, not being allowed to worship God according to their own belief, preferred to emigrate to a country where they might enjoy their own form of religious worship in peace.
LESSON X X I.
SEMI-INDEPENDENT BRITISH ISLES AND POSSESSIONS IN
1. Some of the islands of the United Kingdom possess a certain amount of independence in their government. Such are the Channel Islands, the Scilly Isles, and the Isle of Man.
The Channel Islands lie in the English Channel, to the north-west of France. They are the oldest of the British dependencies, being all that is left of the French domain of William the Conqueror. The chief islands are Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark, having a total area of seventy-three square miles, and a population of 90,000. The islands are noted for their mild climate. The chief exports are potatoes and other vegetables, granite, cattle, eggs, and fruit.
3. The Scilly Isles are a group of islets and rocks, south-west from Land's End, at a distance of about thirty miles. The islets are noted for their very mild climate. The people of the six inhabited islands are employed in agriculture and fishing. The government consists of a court of twelve persons, who meet at Hugh Town, the capital.
4. The Isle of Man lies near the middle of the Irish Sea. It contains an area of about 280 square miles, and a population of 54,000. Like the Irish and Welsh, the natives are Celtic. Both they and their old Celtio language, now but seldom spoken, are called Manx. The island has its own parliament, called the Tynwald.
It consists of two branches, the Governor and Council, appointed by the Crown, and the House of Keys, chosen by the people. The meetings are held at Castletown, the capital.
The Hill of Tynwald lies near the middle of the island, and no law has any force until it has been read in English and in Manx from this hill. Douglas is the largest town. Agricultural produce and some minerals-lead, iron, and slate—are exported.
5. Heligoland, or the Holy Land, is an islet in the North Sea, situated opposite to and about forty miles from the mouth of the Elbe. It was taken from Denmark in the year 1807, and is still retained as a coaling and provision station for the British fleet when serving in the neighbouring seas. Steamboats run between Heligoland and Hamburg, the island being a favourite sea-side resort for the inhabitants of the great German town. The people, who number about 2,000, get their living as pilots, or by fishing, and letting lodgings. The soil of the island is sandy, and its area is being gradually lessened by the inroads of the sea, so that in time it will probably become a mere sand-bank in the ocean.
6. Gibraltar is a rocky peninsula on the extreme south of Spain, and close to the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. It is three miles in length and three-quarters of a mile in width, and joined to Spain on the north by a low isthmus. The town was wrested from the Spaniards by Sir George Rooke in 1704, and since then it has remained a British possession, notwithstanding the combined efforts of France and Spain to re-capture it. It is strongly fortified. The galleries which hold its thousand guns are cut out of the solid rock. The bay on the west is open to the south-west winds blowing from the Atlantic, and affords but a poor anchorage for ships. The population of the town, including the garrison of about 7,000 soldiers, exceeds 25,000. The Barbary ape, the only animal of the monkey tribe living in Europe, is found on the higher parts of the rock.
7. Malta, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, seventeen miles long and nine miles wide, lies fifty-six