Until the earlier parts of this nineteenth century England has been conspicuous among other nations in tolerating slavery in some of her possessions, and in permitting her people to engage in systematic man-hunts, with the accompanying atrocities and horrors of a regular slave trade. Manifestations of national abhorrence and condemnation of that inhuman traffic and of slavery in general appeared during the first quarter of this century. The nation hid its shame and contrition in acts towards remedying its share of the evil committed. These took the shape of expending some twenty million pounds sterling towards the emancipation of slaves and various other costly measures to repress the trade in human beings, and in proclaiming personal freedom for all slaves in her dominions. The desire to do justice to coloured races was further exemplified in the adoption, dating some fifty years back, of a totally altered colonial and native policy. Up to then the practice with all colonizing Powers had been to utilize their foreign dominions as preserves for financial exploitation, involving the most crying injustice to aborigines. The departure then effected consisted in a policy of just laws instead, directed to ensure to those people equitable treatment and a recognition of their rights to fixed property and to a position before the law equal with that of white inhabitants. The revenues produced by the Colonies were thenceforward all to be devoted to the advancement of their own local prosperity. Free trade followed that régime of liberty and equity, and, as intended, such Colonial dominions began to partake of the character and were constituted off-shoots of the mother country, with a like status of liberty and enjoying the benefit of British protection at the same time. Many were the auguries that the experiment would result in political and economic failure, but the good results to all concerned proved to be so far-reaching as to startle even its most sanguine advocates. The extension of privileges and rights operated upon the natives as a magical incentive to labour and emulation for the improvement of their economic condition; people who had before preferred an indolent, semi-nomadic existence betook themselves more to agricultural and sedentary habits, living in much greater comfort and steadily increasing in wealth.
Civilization went on apace, and with it the moral improvement of the aborigines, paving the way as well for the spread of Christianity. All this was accompanied with an immense and ever-advancing expansion of trade with England and the recognition of British prestige as a successful colonizing power.
Numerous other principalities courted the privilege of coming under the ægis of the English flag, their potentates and people readily submitting to the abolition of practices which were not in accord with humane and civilized usages and eager to share the benefits and advancement of civilization which were enjoyed under British rule. In not a few instances it was, however, not feasible to extend the protectorate so coveted.
While other nations were engaged in wars during the past half-century, England had opportunities to largely expand and consolidate her Colonial dominions. At the same time British trade, industries and shipping advanced with gigantic strides, and that nation has since gained the foremost rank as a commercial and Colonial empire, governing over the choicest portions of the globe some four hundred millions of loyal and contented subjects, who enjoy liberty and a degree of prosperity unequalled elsewhere as yet, the whole being protected by a navy which constitutes England as champion on sea as well.
All this national success and example of liberal government have had a salutary influence upon the rest of the world in evoking wholesome competition and emulation. But another and very untoward effect is that widespread and deep-rooted envy and jealousy have also been aroused, which on occasion are apt to develop into pretexts for actual hostility, or hostile partisanship as is now the case.
What signalises the beneficent reign of Queen Victoria more than anything else is the peculiarly devoted manner in which that august lady has personally acquitted herself of her duty and responsibility in regard to the elevation and rehabilitation of the hitherto socially enslaved condition of womanhood in her Indian empire; for it is well known how the philosophic religions of the East have been subtly adapted for establishing the political and social pre-eminence of certain classes of a population over its majority, at the same time dooming womanhood generally to the lowest rank of drudges, perpetual contempt and ignorance, refusing them education (as had been done in the case of the Roman slaves)—specially despised if without a husband, and if a widow, immolated at last upon her husband's funeral pyre.
Step by step, by means of strenuous and disinterested exertions, employing prestige and encouragements, by legislation and otherwise, a breach was effected which bids fair to break down that caste-fenced and chained thraldom, and to raise over a hundred millions of her humble subject sisters from unnatural degradation to occupy the honourable and responsible rank assigned by the Creator to woman as man's social help, meet for him, and to whom honour is due as to the weaker vessel. Millions of women have already found emancipation and recognition of their right position, to man's reciprocal joy and to the felicity of their families. Their sons and daughters in turn now form armies to complete the mission of liberty so zealously inaugurated by their beloved Empress, their own peculiar star of India.
Maybe this and similar earnests evinced during that noble Queen's reign, among which the shelter afforded to the Jewish people, will come into remembrance in mitigation of visitations deserved by the nation for its previous complicity in the hideous traffic in African souls of men.
It throws a light upon the credulity and simplicity of the bulk of the poor deluded peasant Boers when, in the face of most genial rule and almost an excess of liberty and privileges, Bond artifice could succeed in conjuring up contrary notions, and to poison them into the monstrous belief that they, the Boers, were an oppressed people, whose downfall was designed by rapacious England, and that no other remedy existed for preserving independence, religion and homes than to expel that wicked English people from African soil. This is, then, what Bond artifice effected in the absence of actual cause and in order to dissimulate its own nefarious objects. It was the work of twenty years' sedulously applied deception and calumnious machinations.
The Hollander coterie has at last succeeded in its ardently desired purpose of pitting the Boer nation against England, and to bring about the present war. What is even more astounding is the success of those villainous artificers upon intelligent partisans of the Boer cause outside of Africa and in England even.