governors; administrators; high commissioners; and commissioners, according to the status of the colony and dependency, or group of colonies and dependencies, over which they preside. Their powers vary according to the position which they occupy. In all cases they represent the crown.
As a consequence of this organization the finance of crown colonies is under the direct control of the imperial government; the finance of representative colonies, though not directly controlled, is usually influenced in important departures by the opinion of the imperial government. In responsible colonies the finance is entirely under local control, and the imperial government is dissociated from either moral or material responsibility for colonial debts.
In federated groups of colonies and dependencies matters which are of common interest to a given number of separate governments are by mutual consent of the federating communities adjudged to the authority of a common government, which, in the case of self-governing colonies, is voluntarily created for the purpose. The associated states form under the federal government one federal body, but the parts retain control of local matters, and exercise all their original rights of government in regard to these. The two great self-governing groups of federated colonies within the empire are the Dominion of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia. In South Africa unification was preferred to federation, the then self-governing colonies being united in 1910 into one state - the Union of South Africa. India, of which the associated provinces are under the control of the central government, may be given as an example of the practical federation of dependencies. Examples of federated crown colonies and lesser dependencies are to be found in the Leeward Island group of the West Indies and the federated Malay States.
This rough system of self-government for the empire has been evolved not without some strain and friction, by the recognition through the vicissitudes of three hundred years of the value of independent initiative in the development of young countries. Queen Elizabeth's first patent to Sir Walter Raleigh permitted British subjects to accompany him to America, "with guarantee of a continuance of the enjoyment of all the rights which her subjects enjoyed at home."
This guarantee may presumably have been intended at the time only to assure the intending settlers that they should lose no rights of British citizenship at home by taking up their residence in America. Its mutual interpretation in a wider sense, serving at once to establish in the colony rights of citizenship equivalent to those enjoyed in England, and to preserve for the colonist the status of British subject at home and abroad, has formed in application to all succeeding systems of British colonization the unconscious charter of union of the empire.
The first American colonies were settled under royal grants, each with its own constitution. The immense distance in time which in those days separated America from Great Britain secured them from interference by the home authorities. They paid their own most moderate governing expenses, and they contributed largely to their own defence. From the middle of the 17th century their trade was not free, but this was the only restriction from which they suffered. The great war with France in the middle of the 18th century temporarily destroyed this system. That war, which resulted in the conquest of Canada and the delivery of the North American colonies from French antagonism, cost the imperial exchequer £90,000,000. The attempt to avert the repetition of such expenditure by the assertion of a right to tax the colonies through the British parliament led to the one great rupture which has marked the history of the empire. It has to be noted that at home during the latter half of the 17th century and the earlier part of the 18th century parliamentary power had to a great extent taken the place of the divine right of kings. But parliamentary power meant the power of the English people and taxpayers.
The struggle which developed itself between the American colonies and the British parliament was in fact a struggle on the part of the people and taxpayers of one portion of the empire to resist the domination of the people and taxpayers of another portion. In this light it may be accepted as having historically established the fundamental axiom of the constitution of the empire, that the crown is the supreme head from which the parts take equal dependence.
The crown requiring advice in the ordinary and constitutional manner receives it in matters of colonial administration from the secretaries of state for the colonies and for India. After the great rupture separate provision in the home government for the administration of colonial affairs was at first judged to be unnecessary, and the "Council of Trade and Plantations," which up to that date had supplied the place now taken by the two offices of the colonies and India, was suppressed in 1782. There was a reaction from the liberal system of colonial self-government, and an attempt was made to govern the colonies simply as dependencies.
In 1791, not long after the extension of the range of parliamentary authority in another portion of the empire, by the creation in 1784 of the Board of Control for India, Pitt made the step forward of granting to Canada representative institutions, of which the home government kept the responsible control. Similar institutions were also given at a later period to Australia and South Africa. But the long peace of the early part of the 19th century was marked by great colonial developments; Australia, Canada and South Africa became important communities. Representative institutions controlled by the home government were insufficient, and they reasserted the claim for liberty to manage their own affairs.