Lionel Curtis, imperial citizenship, and the quest for unity.
[m]y deepest conviction is that in politics as in other matters there is a truth which can be discovered by earnest and dispassionate enquiry and that those who have the patience to reach it and abide in it will find that they meet on common ground which will give them the basis for concerted action. (2)
Through his work with the imperial pressure group the Round Table, and more broadly in his advocacy of imperial federation, Curtis played a leading role in imperial affairs through much of the first half of the twentieth century. In his interests, then, he differed little from the scores of other Oxbridge men who looked to empire, rather than the bar, politics, or the City for their professional niche. What set Curtis apart from his peers, indeed what characterized his career in its entirety, was an industry of almost monastical intensity (3) and a proselytizing spirit that did not recognize defeat. He developed a reputation in imperial circles as a man above politics, a conciliator who could mediate between competing camps with fairness and equanimity. (4) His biographer, Deborah Lavin, has written that he was in the business of public relations before that calling had crystallized into a profession. (5)
The present article examines the role of Lionel Curtis within the world of early-twentieth-century British imperial thought and politics, addressing primarily his activities stretching from the Boer War to the beginning of the 1920s. It presents the argument that Curtis believed empire to be mankind's best hope of fostering and preserving peace. The means through which Curtis pursued this goal was imperial citizenship. Though this position strikes modern ears as naive, and not a little pretentious, it was consistent with the normative view of politics, and the belief that political service should be devoted to a search for a common good, that characterized much political debate, domestic as well as imperial, during this era. While Curtis has certainly attracted the notice of historians, his influence has been attenuated by two factors. First, he has often been studied in tandem with his Round Table peers, as a purveyor of the ultimately lost cause of imperial union, and thus unintentionally he can appear as "merely another clubman." (6) Second, his political and intellectual activities have not fit within the purview of much recent imperial historiography, whose attention has shifted from political themes to those of identity, especially race. Postcolonial history in particular seeks to provide a hermeneutic procedure aimed at dislodging and exposing the master narratives of race/class/gender that dominated European thought, and that underpinned imperialism. (7) A figure such as Curtis appears in this literature as an opponent of equality. While such works have much to tell us about the shape and scope of the British Empire, attempts to dislodge older "master narratives" of empire have also tended to portray the dependencies as the most prominent feature of British imperialism. Such a focus would have struck contemporary imperialists as odd, for their primary imperial interest was the settlement colonies. (8) Curtis's work, focusing as it did on constructing bonds of citizenship and greater equality between the empire's white subjects, represented a liberal, though culturally myopic, imperialism.
While it has become commonplace among historians to conceive of the empire as an "imagined community," (9) it is less clear how contemporaries themselves "imagined" this "community." (10) Citizenship, as a practical and concrete device, helps illuminate this lacuna in imperial studies, and thus Curtis's thought on imperial citizenship provides an apposite case study of early-twentieth-century conceptions of empire. Curtis's ideas concerning imperial citizenship point to one of the central strands of the imperial thought web--the idea of union consecrated in an imperial citizenship. The institution of imperial citizenship deserves greater scrutiny than it has so far been accorded by historians. (11) It provides a partial map of the imperial mind of the pre-Great War period, offering insight into the political development of empire, as well as the vast discrepancies in the benefits and status of different classes of "citizens." (12)
Debates over imperial citizenship took place within the relatively small circle of Britons drawn from the educated and aristocratic elites who constituted the "upper ten thousand." Many of these men, and almost all were men, were Oxbridge educated. As such, a small number of interconnected, and often interrelated, individuals wielded an inordinate degree of influence in both the political and intellectual world of late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain. These same individuals were in turn selected for key imperial positions abroad, and thus constituted a nexus of imperial influence binding the empire to the metropole. (13) Furthermore, it was mainly in conservative and liberal imperialist circles that issues of empire and imperial citizenship resonated most strongly, especially through appeals to patriotism, national interest, and international prestige. (14)
Curtis was at the heart of this elitist world. Born on 7 March 1872, he was raised in an evangelical environment, (15) his father an Anglican rector. Though he moved away from the Church of England while at Oxford, Curtis nonetheless derived from his upbringing a sense of divine mission, of service. As he recalled in 1935, "I myself was brought up as what in America they call a fundamentalist." (16) He transferred the biblical literalism of his childhood to the study of empire, which he came to see as a "New Jerusalem." Commenting in 1910 on South African union, a process in which he was a leading figure, Curtis noted that "[i]t is indeed impossible not to feel it is the Lord's and that it is wondrous in our eyes." (17) In the course of a speech in Johannesburg in 1906, advocating union, he invoked the Parable of the Talents, stating that "[h]e that is faithful in little is faithful in much." (18) Such references were not uncommon in prewar British culture, despite the mounting secular assault on traditional religious life. The "new evangelicalism" of the 1860s and 1870s had stressed an engagement with worldly affairs over personal salvation, with the empire in particular increasingly seen as a providential field for reformism. (19) In holding such beliefs, Curtis showed a greater affinity for Gladstonian moral politics than the realpolitik outlook currently in ascendance amongst British politicians such as Lord Salisbury and A. J. Balfour. But Curtis should not be mistaken for a religious imperial crusader in the vein of David Livingstone. The real significance of his faith is that it shaped his conception of imperial governance, and the concomitant role of the individual in the imperium. Indeed, Curtis's notion of imperial citizenship much resembles the Parable of Talents, with each individual tending to his given task in service to the whole.
Here Curtis's religious impulses intermingled with the Idealism of T. H. Green, a central influence on Curtis's Oxford education. (20) Green advanced a moral theory of politics that necessitated man's active pursuit of what he called "the common good." His ideas concerning social reform greatly influenced the New Liberals, but also resonated with liberal conservatives, such as Curtis, who found in Idealism inspiration for holistic solutions to issues of peace and empire. British Idealism itself constituted a "community of opinion," (21) rather than a system of thought, a distinction characterized by the ambiguity of Curtis's ideas on imperial citizenship. He epitomized the broader trend among many early-twentieth-century imperialists to seek systemic, rather than empirical, interpretations of political and imperial problems, leaving the details for others to carry out. Indeed, Curtis's degree was only a third, a record that he tried in later life to overcome through sheer industry: "I'm only a third in greats and I spend my life panting to keep up with firsts." (22) The Latin root of "religion" is religio, meaning reverence or bond. (23) These terms were at the heart of Curtis's idea of and devotion to the idea of empire. The combination of evangelicalism and Idealism led Curtis to find in imperialism a secular religion.
Despite his fervent devotion to his creed, Curtis was not attracted to partisan politics. In an age of mass democracy, his aristocratic bearing left him unsuitable for the hustings. He was much more comfortable in the smoking room, a milieu he made his own. Devoting his life instead to empire, he produced a prodigious, if not entirely original, corpus of work on his chosen subject, securing a reputation as a mediator and man "above politics." Curtis's formative practical experience came in southern Africa, where his views on imperial government and citizenship were cast in the crucible of post-Boer War reconstruction. He served under the proconsul, Sir Alfred Milner, in a number of official capacities from 1901 to 1906, including a post in the Johannesburg city council and, later, as an assistant colonial secretary responsible for urban affairs. His status as an imperial expert was firmly established through his participation in the drafting of the Selborne Memorandum (1907), (24) the document that came to form the foundation of the new Union of South Africa's constitution two years later. (25)
Curtis shared his contemporaries' unshakeable belief in the supremacy of British political culture; his was not, however, a myopic view of imperial citizenship. The young Curtis was not unfavorably disposed toward the Boers, even during the war: "My little experience has been that the Boer like the Englishman is not a model of all the virtues but neither is he beyond other races a villain; and just because the stupidity of our rulers has set us to shoot each other should we say that he is?" (26) Contact with Milner would temper Curtis's disdain for his "rulers." Curtis's devotion to Milner was perhaps the strongest of all the members of the Kindergarten, the name of the small group of young Oxford men who came out to the Cape to help rebuild the region. (27) Though he was later to move away from Milner's race-based notion of imperial citizenship, the two men maintained a close working and personal relationship until Milner's death in 1925.
Curtis developed three core ideas regarding imperial citizenship, none of which he would fully articulate until the end of the Edwardian period. Of primary importance was his growing conviction that imperial federation held the key to world peace, and provided the buttress of "Civilization." Curtis defined "Civilization" as a British-led European civilization drawn in equal parts from the Greco-Roman tradition and the legacy of liberty bequeathed by the twin revolutions of the late eighteenth century in America and France. Second, Curtis came to believe, through his constitutional work in South Africa, that imperial governance must be centralized. He had initially been intrigued by the journalist and imperial traveller Richard Jebb's ideas on colonial nationalism and the importance to empire of allowing the (white) colonies a greater degree of autonomy. (28) However, in embracing centralization, Curtis came to argue that the imperial citizen must be tied intrinsically to the state of empire, not to the local state. Third, in an age when the intellectual divide between the "elite" and the "masses" was widening on every front, (29) Curtis tried to reconcile his latent conviction that those most able to rule should govern with the ever-emerging political reality that democracy necessitates a role for the elector. He tried to square this circle by arguing that while all citizens of empire are entitled to its benefits, some citizens were more equal than others. Thus his adherence to the Victorian notion of tutelage, what Thomas Metcalfe has in a less euphemistic manner termed "authoritative liberalism." (30) Curtis's idea of imperial citizenship was a paradox of equality in theory and inequality in practice.
These three convictions could be realized, in Curtis's view, through the creation of a federal imperial union, a political structure uniting Britain and her English-speaking dominions of settlement, encouraging them to act in concert in pursuit of their common goals. Such an "Anglosphere," however, would prove to be stillborn. (31) After all, the idea of a federal imperial system was not new. Indeed, the Imperial Federation League had brought the idea to the forefront of imperial debate in the 1880s. (32) In the wake of Confederation in Canada, and increased intercolonial cooperation in Australia, intellectuals and public figures such as the Canadian George R. Parkin had urged that London adopt the federal system for the empire as a whole. The federalists failed the first time for a variety of reasons. (33) Despite Joseph Chamberlain's efforts at the Diamond Jubilee in 1897, the idea of federation lost momentum until the aftermath of the Boer War. While historians of the Edwardian period have drawn attention to concerns over "national efficiency," (34) widespread after Britain's Pyrrhic victory in southern Africa, there also emerged from the cauldron of war a renewed debate over the federal idea. It was seen, not only by Milner and his Kindergarten but also more widely in imperial circles, as both a means to prevent future imperial conflicts and as a template for the long-conceived idea of a union of South Africa, the prelude to imperial federation itself. It was as a participant in this public discussion that Curtis began to formulate his idea of imperial citizenship.
In a federal imperial union Curtis saw a guarantor of world peace, an idea he had derived from his earlier constitutional work in South Africa. South Africa consisted of linked but competing components, each of which pursued its own self-interest ("national interest," except that they were only colonies). This relationship made it inevitable that local conflicts would necessarily explode into regional ones, pulling all interested parties into war. This, according to Curtis, was precisely what had happened in the case of the South African War. Apart from neglecting his patron's decisive role in precipitating the contest, (35) Curtis here also ignored the decisive role of economics, especially competition over mineral resources. Cumbersome governmental machinery had not created war. Curtis's frustration, much as was Milner's, was that the lack of unhindered British regional sovereignty, owing to the existence of autonomous or semiautonomous regional entities such as the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, (36) made it impossible for Britain to act as she wished. Thus, the government at the Cape was unsuccessful in securing what it deemed fair economic and political rights for the uitlander (non-Boer prospectors) population in the Transvaal. Curtis thus phrased his analysis of the conflict and its legacy in the language of peace. He argued that a federal union, formed in the likeness of the Westminster model, was not only the best, but also the only guarantee of peace: "[there is] no half-way house between open conflict and union." (37)
Curtis also drew a number of lessons from his time in municipal government. Upon leaving the Johannesburg Town Council in 1903, where he had served as town clerk since 1901, Curtis delivered a speech to his fellow councillors in which he outlined the views he would later develop though his work with the Round Table. Government, in Curtis's mind, functioned most effectively when representative traditions were enhanced by "study groups," experts who would reflect on problems and advise their elected counterparts. (38) The absence of such groups led to "government of platitude and panacea." (39) The Round Table was the period's most successful such group.
The Round Table arose from the debate over imperial defense that captured the attention of colonial and British officials alike in 1909. The immediate trigger of this debate was the alarming expansion of the German navy. Britain believed that the dominions should contribute to the cost of their own defense. Sentiment on this issue was mixed in the dominions themselves. The issue provoked the most discussion in Canada, where the naval debate dominated the parliamentary sessions of 1910-11. Curtis viewed with dismay the acrimony that characterized British-dominion negotiations over this issue. In informal meetings held in South Africa throughout the summer of 1909, Curtis, along with several other members of Milner's Kindergarten, agreed that a well-defined imperial union, not dissimilar to that envisioned by Joseph Chamberlain during the tariff debate earlier in the decade, was the best method of preventing imperial cleavages. Out of these meetings was formed the Round Table. Besides Curtis, founding members included the political publicist Phillip Kerr (later Lord Lothian), the banker R. H. Brand, the writer F. S. Oliver, William Morris, George Craik, Martin Holland, and Lords Anglesey, Howick, Lovat, and Wolmer. Other members in the 1910s included Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times from 1912-19; the politicians Leopold Amery and Milner, both future Colonial Secretaries; and the Oxford scholar Reginald Coupland. (40)
Though they acknowledged that the dominions cherished their independence in matters of self-government, the Round Table argued that their dependence on Britain for defense funding made formal union a necessity. The imperial union they envisioned would be governed by an Imperial Parliament, consisting of two houses, an elected lower house and an upper house of peers. (41) The Imperial Parliament would deliberate on issues of imperial importance, most notably defense and foreign policy. It would also have the ability to impose imperial taxes. In exchange for participating by proportionate representation in the Imperial Parliament, the dominions would enjoy a broad-based autonomy in domestic issues. The most important domestic jurisdiction was the ability to set local tariffs, illustrating Curtis's position, at least implicitly, on the most pressing imperial issue of the early twentieth century.
To bring about such a union, the Round Table decided that cells should be developed in each dominion, under the guidance of men "of character and capacity," for the purpose of bringing the issue of union before the public until such a time as a formal plan could be constructed. (42) Curtis later clarified the nature of such work in a letter to the Asian specialist and civil servant Valentine Chirol. He explained that the Round Table would function like a royal commission, gathering information but not advocating a position until it had completed its work. (43) Finances for this endeavor were raised from the members themselves, from wealthy benefactors, and from the Rhodes Trust.
The Round Table was from the beginning an elitist enterprise, and never claimed otherwise. It held regular "moots," where members would gather to discuss pertinent imperial issues. It also founded an eponymous journal, The Round Table, where anonymous articles pressed the cause for imperial union. (44) The original impetus for anonymity was to reflect a group consensus on issues, and minimize allegations of personal bias. (45) The principle of anonymity was also applied to the creation of the group's plan for union, dubbed the "Green Memorandum." Curtis, however, came to be the guiding force, writing the final copy and indeed almost the entirety of earlier drafts. When the document was finally offered to the public for perusal as The Problem of the Commonwealth (1916), with an initial press run of five thousand copies, (46) Curtis felt compelled to state in the preface that "the writer himself has, of necessity, had to decide what to reject and what to accept. He has no authority for stating, therefore, that the report represents any opinion but his own." (47) This statement represents not the pro form a introductory apologia of writers, but rather the divisions that had sprung up between Curtis and his fellow Round Table members. (48) While these divisions produced no decisive ideological rift amongst the group's members, they led Curtis to assume a more independent public voice, and from this point on his ideas on imperial citizenship are more easily distinguishable from those of the Round Table as a whole.
It is difficult to adjudge the influence of the Round Table in the 1910s. The subscription rate for the journal was never large, with a maximum of 400 in Australia and a peak of 698 (of which only 372 were paid) in Canada in 1916. (49) None of the principle members, including Curtis, ever held high office, and their scheme of imperial federation was never realized. That said, the Round Table did exert informal influence. Its moots and dinners attracted leading politicians, such as Austen Chamberlain, and it benefited from broad social connections, enjoying the patronage of well-placed individuals such as Nancy Astor and Lady Selborne. (50) Curtis, meanwhile, built up a wide "anglophone network" through his extensive travels in the empire and continuous campaign of correspondence. Through these avenues, the Round Table on occasion gained the ear of policymakers. Examples include Curtis and Brand converting Churchill to the idea of federation as a solution to the Home Rule crisis at social events at Cliveden in 1912, and Curtis providing the template for Montagu's 1917 reforms with his writing on Indian self-rule. (51) As the decade wore on, some Round Table members ascended to positions of more direct power, particularly Kerr, who was a member of Lloyd George's "Garden Suburb" and served as the prime minister's private secretary at Versailles. (52) The group's primary significance was probably in keeping imperial issues in the political consciousness, even if its prescriptions were rarely implemented. The Round Table, for instance, was the only journal addressing international and public affairs in Australia before 1929, (53) and the group can be given some credit for Britain's decision to create an Imperial War Cabinet in 1917, invite Indian observers to the 1917 Imperial Conference, and to invite dominion representatives to Versailles.
Curtis, particularly, also focussed the public's attention on the relationship between Britain and the dominions. He argued that self-government, the goal toward which Britain's colonies were progressing, was only effective when people assumed greater involvement in public affairs beyond simply exercising the vote. By "greater involvement" Curtis did not mean increased autonomy, "colonial nationalism" in the parlance of the period. Indeed, Curtis viewed the drift toward colonial self-reliance with concern, believing that incipient nationalist thought in the dominions served only to attenuate the common bond of empire, not strengthen it. He did not reject colonial nationalism, nor was he ignorant of it. The principle of colonial nationalism was in fact at the heart of his idea of empire, the goal to which imperial people were progressing. In The Problem of the Commonwealth he explained how this process had taken shape:
[e]ach [dominion] has asserted the right to decide for itself who shall inhabit its territories and how they shall live; and the people of each Dominion have constructed for themselves national governments competent to interpret public opinion on these matters, to formulate policies, and to raise from the particular public to which they are responsible the taxation required to make them effective. And in equipping themselves to think and act as nations the peoples of the Dominions, like those of the United States, have severally acquired a national consciousness of their own. Canadians, Australians, and South Africans each think of themselves as nations distinct from the people of the British Isles, just as the British think of themselves as a nation distinct from the citizens of the United States. (54)
Further reflecting on Lord Durham's imperial legacy of responsible government, Curtis noted the fact "[t]hat in the last analysis the colonists were free to decide all things for themselves, even the nature of their citizenship, was accepted as articulus stantis aut cadentis Imperii, the cardinal principle of imperial policy." (55) He thus recognized, and approved of as central to any working definition of imperial citizenship, the significance of colonial self-definition. His concern lay in the fear that the dominions might use this self-definition in a manner counter to the imperial "common good," by which he meant imperial unity. Specifically, he was concerned that colonial desires to conduct independent foreign relations would be counterproductive for the imperial enterprise, especially because the dominions were not able to contribute adequately to their own defense. As early as 1905, he put forth his conviction that the colonies must be reintegrated into the empire, rather than given greater autonomy: "Colony [sic] is not a territory, a code of laws and a scheme of institutions, but a society of people, and nothing which touches the manner in which those people are to live can in the end affect them so profoundly as the ultimate and fundamental question as to who the people are themselves to be." (56)
To prevent imperial dissolution, Curtis suggested that the dominions would enjoy proportional representation in the proposed Imperial Parliament, and would thus have some say in the conduct of foreign policy relating to their territory. Each constituent of empire would send representatives based upon its taxable capacity, and according to its current distribution of the franchise. Such a structure would show respect for the colonies' varied conceptions of the franchise (women, for instance, could vote in New Zealand by 1893; indigenous peoples in South Africa could not). (57) This idea, however, proved unacceptable both to dominion leaders and the British government. The Liberal H. H. Asquith, British prime minister, was not sympathetic to the idea of an Imperial Parliament when this idea was floated, apparently without the Round Table's blessing, by New Zealand premier Sir Joseph Ward at the 1911 Imperial Conference: "that authority [here referring to foreign policy and defense] cannot be shared, and the co-existence side by side with the cabinet of the United Kingdom of this proposed body ... would, in our judgement, be absolutely fatal to our present system of responsible government." (58)
Asquith's comments illustrate the broader problem Curtis faced in formulating his ideas on imperial citizenship, and explains why these ideas remained fissiparous. Namely, Curtis struggled to reconcile the existence of multiple loyalties within the empire with the formation of a unified imperial state. This struggle manifested itself in his thought on the nettlesome question of race; in his misreading of the American federal example as articulated by its most vocal proponent, Alexander Hamilton; in his attempt to confront such divisions in the immediate future through the principle of tutelage; and in the principle of "dyarchy" he suggested for India. Curtis's difficulty in outlining how multiple loyalties could be subordinated to a loyalty to the imperial state explains why he was unable to offer a coherent definition of imperial citizenship.
As we have seen, Curtis's ideas drew heavily on the campaigns of the imperial federationists of the 1880s and early 1890s. Curtis shared their conviction that union was a matter of politics, not a priori a matter of race. Here historians' attention to the admittedly more dramatic writings of British racialists such as the eugenicist Francis Galton, the philosopher Karl Pearson, and the civil servant and writer Benjamin Kidd have clouded our understanding of late-Victorian imperialism. (59) "Race" was indeed front and center in discussions of imperial citizenship, but not always in a consciously discriminatory manner.
When early-twentieth-century Britons spoke of "race," what they invariably meant was "culture." (60) Such an understanding allowed men such as Curtis to hold two seemingly incongruent positions: one, that the British "race" was the world's most advanced; and two, that non-Britons could become members of the British "race" if properly "educated." In accepting this position Curtis was developing the ideas of federationists such as Joseph Chamberlain and the Canadian archbishop McGoun. McGoun rejected an imperial union based upon the superiority of one race, writing that "the people of the Anglo-Saxon race have no more right to assume sovereignty over the other races of the world, than the Greeks did to class the rest of mankind as barbarians." Rather, imperial union was to be a political one: "[t]he political idea we desire to keep ... is the extension of the reign of individual and local liberty ... for the preservation of political rights, and for resisting injustice and oppression whether of individuals, provinces, nations or races." (61) Even more strident voices at home, such as the outspoken radical Right member of Parliament Henry Page Croft, argued for an imperial citizenship based on the primacy of empire over the local. (62)
Curtis specifically used the notion of "race" in his interpretation of imperial citizenship in much the manner the later British socialist literary critic Raymond Williams used the term "culture." (63) Williams, in drawing on Matthew Arnold's explication of the term as denoting that which unites a civilization, appropriated the term to denote an organic society where work was creative and cooperative. While Curtis shared neither Arnold's poetic impulses nor the later Williams's socialist convictions, he too held that culture conveyed the ideas of union and affinity, which served to improve the intellectual life of all members of society (hence Arnold's juxtaposition of Culture and Anarchy). Put simply, culture was that which held people together. Curtis's conception of federation and its attendant imperial citizenship of local autonomy subordinate to a shared loyalty to the imperial crown were predicated upon a view of political culture as creative and cooperative.
While Curtis did not ignore issues of race, his concerns were fundamentally with the white settlement colonies. The dependent or "coloured" empire provided the paradox of citizenship that he was unable to resolve. This paradox was especially apparent in the case of India. Curtis's estimate of India's population was 312,632,537, a figure that he had extrapolated from the 1911 census and published in The Problem of the Commonwealth. The total population of the British Empire at this time was 433,574,001. (64) India thus made up almost three-quarters (72.1 percent) of the entire empire. Any proposed imperial government must therefore address the question of Indian representation. Curtis understood this fact. The sheer size of the collected Indian provinces, however, dictated that Indian representatives would overwhelm those from the rest of the empire if given proportional representation. A young Curtis put this problem quite baldly to Kerr in 1907. Commenting on the "crisis" of Indian labor in the Transvaal, (65) Curtis wrote that the granting of equal rights for all imperial subjects was a dangerous proposition, for the result would be that "in the coming centuries the great reservoir of Indian races will be opened and allowed to deluge the whole of the Imperial Dominions and submerge the white community." (66) In using such language, Curtis shared the prevailing presumption of the era that race also meant skin color, a view he only began to move away from in the 1920s. An imperial citizenship that recognized all imperial subjects as equal was thus not in Curtis's immediate view, and indeed was impractical given the racialist attitudes of early-twentieth-century Britons and the gross economic and social disjunction between white and nonwhite subjects.
Like McGoun, Curtis believed that the common identity fostered by a shared British culture enabled the empire to function as an institution of peace, a belief confirmed by the empire's participation in the First World War. As he wrote in one of the draft versions of the "Green Memorandum," "[t]o commonwealths war is a visitation to be faced, like famine or pestilence, only with the purpose of preventing its recurrence and protecting the liberty for which they stand." (67) This is a variant on the central tenet of liberal international theory, which holds that liberal states, representing morally autonomous citizens holding rights to liberty, do not war with each other. (68) Curtis contrasted the benevolent imperialism of the British ideal with what he saw as a malevolent German variant, that sought to spread "its own culture over all the world, blind to the truth that for each individual and race the only culture is their own." (69) Curtis was fully aware of the charge that the British Empire was really no different, attempting to achieve by legislation what he accused the Germans of seeking by the sword--namely, imperium. The difference that put the British in the right, he contended, was an adherence to "freedom," a principle he contrasted to Central European "autocracy."
Comparisons to foreign nations were, however, rare in Curtis's early work. Though he was a liberal internationalist, and came to favour the construction of international organizations, he always believed in Anglo-Saxon leadership. (70) As for how non-Anglo-Saxon nations would fit within his proposed world structure, his writing at this point is largely silent. His, after all, was an insular project, reflecting a parochial (some might say chauvinistic) streak strong amongst imperial thinkers of the age. A notable exception was his view of the United States, and particularly the political legacy of Alexander Hamilton. The United States was seen by many imperialists as the prodigal son of the imperial world, a wayward familial relation. (71) The connection between Hamilton's federalism and the British Empire had been popularized in a biographical study of Hamilton penned by F. S. Oliver, a Round Table "fellow traveller" and influence on Curtis. (72) While Hamilton was perhaps the least insular of the founding fathers, in drawing on his legacy Curtis wanted "to have his cake and eat it too." On the one hand, Curtis saw in Hamilton's staunch Federalist position the ideal template for a commonwealth. On the other, he elsewhere pursued the argument that the United States, in adopting an isolationist stance in world affairs for almost the entirety of its history, had reneged on its rightful duty to further the parliamentary tradition around the world. Stripped of its jingo shrillness, Curtis was here echoing Kipling's famous "white man's burden" line, delivered in verse to the United States during the latter's war with Spain. (73)
Curtis further misread Hamilton in failing to see the real compromises the latter accepted in pursuing the collective goal of a united nation, most notably that concerning slavery. Curtis also did not understand that Hamilton sometimes engaged in rhetoric to make his point. (74) While Hamilton disagreed with the anti-Federalists over their view that the state government should be more powerful than the national government, he shared with his foes a firm belief in private property as political sacrament. It was this notion of property and ownership (Locke's legacy) that led to the awkward and somewhat disingenuous compromise over slavery. The founding fathers implicitly argued that nonwhite Americans would be excluded from full citizenship not because of their color, but because they did not own property. Curtis, as we will see, shied away from any definition of imperial citizenship that recognized property as the determinant principle. Down this road lay a decreased role for Britain and the potential dominance of India if the sheer weight of the latter's demographic dominance was translated into property ownership. A Hamiltonian federation might have been a useful model for small-scale union, as in South Africa, but it proved to be no more than rhetoric when applied to the empire in toto. Furthermore, Curtis maintained an elitist disregard for mass politics that Hamilton and his fellow founding fathers, though they shared in spirit, had been forced to come to terms with.
Here we move toward the paradox central to Curtis's notion of imperial citizenship. Commenting on the pacificist nature of true empire, he stated that
[e]mpires must hold together, and that they can do only in so far as the peoples they include find that they answer to the needs not of one, but of all. The British Empire has held together in so far as Britain has discovered principles and evolved a system which are not British but human, and can only endure in so far as it grows more human still. (75)
The "principles" that Britain had "discovered" were those of liberty and freedom. The latter was the goal toward which the entire development of empire was moving. This is why Curtis employed the teleological title of "Project of a Commonwealth" as the working title of Round Table Studies, Second Series--the very endeavor of empire was a process of spreading freedom:
Freedom, like the principle of life in the physical world, is inseparable from growth. Commonwealths are the corporeal flame in which it is incarnate, and they cease to flourish when they cease to extend the principle that inspires them in an increasing degree to an ever-widening circle of men. (76)
This was not to say, however, that all those under the British crown were entitled to play an equal role in this process, nor even that the British themselves had set out as their goal the political education of other peoples. Rather, by assuming the imperial mantle, Britain had contracted the moral responsibility to promote improvement, much as, according to Curtis, an industrialist has a moral responsibility to ensure the welfare of his workers. The act of political education was the telos of empire: "[i]n truth, this world-wide state is not, as some historians have vainly taught, an outcome of blunders, accidents, and crimes, but of the deepest necessities of human life. It is the project of a system designed on the only scale which is capable of meeting those needs."(77)
If the empire was the only means to meet the needs of freedom and liberty, some imperial subjects enjoyed a greater role in this process. By 1915 Curtis increasingly used the term "the commonwealth." "The Commonwealth," he recorded, existed to enlarge that class of citizens capable of participating in its public life: "[t]o endure ... a commonwealth must contain a sufficient proportion of citizens competent to share in the tasks of government, and, in fact, sharing them." Put clearly, Curtis argued that a commonwealth, his vision for the future form of empire, "is a state in which government rests on the shoulders of all its citizens who are fit for government"; (78) its success rested in the ability to "realize its character as a commonwealth in time." (79) The ambiguity in this last passage is unintentionally revealing of Curtis's Whiggish notion of imperial citizenship. If, instead of his intended meaning of urgency in understanding the nature of commonwealth as such, we parse this sentence to place the emphasis on the last three words, Curtis unintentionally reveals his conviction that it is important to understand empire as a "commonwealth in time," a living process in which citizenship gradually widens to encompass all under the British sovereign. These humanistic ideas were tempered by Curtis's separate and more conservative conviction that some men were more fit to govern than others. Thus the paradoxical nature of Curtis's thought on imperial citizenship.
Writing to Lady Selborne in 1915, Curtis expressed his conviction that in British society, and by extrapolation, in the empire, some were more fit to govern than others: "I, belonging to the lower middle class, believe more and more firmly every day in aristocracy as understood by Aristotle. In plain words I believe in trusting political power to all who are fit to exercise it, plus as many more as can be given the vote without endangering the state too much." (80) From this view naturally followed the conviction that the franchise should be extended only where it could be "properly" employed. Curtis's caveat that he came from humble origins--the "lower middle class"--is intended to convey the fact that his notion of citizenship was not one of noblesse oblige. Though he recoiled from such crude demarcations of social stratification, it should be noted that, like many of his contemporaries, Curtis took a marked liking to the social and material benefits of clubland and the country manor. Indeed, soon before his work in pursuit of union in South Africa bore fruit in 1910, Curtis in June 1909 returned to the comforts of London and Oxford. In 1912, sponsored by his patron Milner, he obtained the position of Beit Lecturer of Colonial History at Oxford. (81)
Curtis's affinity for an aristocracy of political merit leads us to ask how such imperial tutors were to be chosen. Here his service with Milner was decisive. The issue of leadership dominated their conversations long after both men had taken leave of southern Africa. Milner was openly dismissive of party politics. Writing early in World War I, he argued that the quality of public men had declined since the nineteenth century, both because of the "machine" nature of parliamentary government and because imperial and domestic issues, which he held to be separate, were perforce dealt with by the same men. Milner's vision was a government composed of men with a common cause (Green's influence was ever present), each with his separate task, working within the framework of an imperial constitution, (82) It is no coincidence that Milner's only service in Cabinet, indeed his only period of service in the House at all, was in Lloyd George's National Government. Curtis agreed with his mentor's tone, but complained in private to Milner that he offered no real alternative to the party system, (83)
By late 1915, Curtis was still struggling with the details of his federal system, unsure of how the dominions would relate with each other, and how the dependencies, specifically India, would be represented. The question of leadership continued to vex him. He had earlier looked with hope to Balfour, whom Lady Selborne described as a "hero above politics," and whom Curtis admired for his intellectual bearing. The search also briefly pointed to Lord Grey of Fallodon and Bonar Law, though in the case of the latter, for reasons no grander than that he was by birth a colonial,(84) Nowhere, however, did Curtis find a figure capable of propagating the "common cause." He thus came to favour a form of British "influence," rather than leadership, as the tool to best achieve a federal empire. Besides the Round Table, whose role has previously been discussed, Curtis advanced this position through his network at Oxford. In his Beit seminars, he discussed a wide range of imperial issues, and introduced his students to leading imperial figures of the day, from MPs to Foreign Office and Admiralty mandarins.(85) He also belonged to the Ralegh Club, a private discussion forum whose members included sitting politicians, journalists, and other merchants of opinion, and thus had a broad impact. (86)
Curtis helped set the club's agenda, especially in bringing discussion of colonial nationalism to the fore. Some members, such as Lord Compton, disparaged the existence of cleavages in the dominions created by party politics, pointing to issues such as the then-current naval debate in Canada as examples of dominion leaders being unable to see the forest for the trees. (87) A federal system, Compton continued, would rectify such difficulties by separating local and imperial affairs. (88) Edward Grigg--journalist, civil servant, honorary Ralegh Club member, and, from 1913-14, joint editor of The Round Table--countered in a later gathering that colonial nationalism was not necessarily anathema to imperial union. Grigg argued that democracy, whose direction "was all towards the formation of large states," would act as a check to the authoritarian potential of union. (89) The scholar J. G. Lockhart was less sanguine on the issue, arguing that the strength of empire lay not in its adherence to democracy, but rather in its moral basis. Colonial nationalism, he stated, was important, but was clearly secondary to imperial loyalty. (90) The Indian J. B. Raju, speaking to the club soon after Lockhart, also saw the empire as a universal institution. In the "exposed fiction of a United India," the empire's greatest merits were the unifying forces of the English language and culture. Raju contradicted Lockhart, however, in contending that Indians were attracted not to the empire's moral message, but rather its material richness. (91) It was this often myopic attention to ideology that led Ralegh Club members, including Curtis, to overestimate the potential of imperial citizenship and underestimate the strength and growth of colonial nationalism. Richard Jebb addressed the Club on just this issue in early 1913, arguing that a federal imperial government "would destroy the sense of responsibility in the Dominions." He argued that an alliance or cooperative structure, based upon mutual interest rather than force, would better achieve the stated goal of imperial unity. (92)
Curtis was particularly attentive to the question of multiple loyalties. In correspondence with Keith Feiling, the New Zealand-born Oxford historian, Curtis argued that because the nature of states is organic, the state perforce claims unlimited authority over its citizens. This occasioned the problem of dual loyalties, as a citizen of a dominion would owe complete allegiance to both his or her homeland and to the empire. (93) The potential for conflict, he believed, was obvious. Though not quite as fearful of the negative consequences of such a conflict as Hamilton had been, Curtis nonetheless advanced the federal idea as the solution to this quandary. (94) Just as the American settlement had achieved a balance between the citizen's loyalty to his local, state, and national governments, so would a commonwealth create a balance between the dominion citizen's domestic and imperial loyalties. (95)
If Curtis's understanding of nationalism was flawed in relation to the dominions, it proved especially misguided when he turned his mind to India, the linchpin of the empire. He began to think seriously about India in 1916. He voyaged to the subcontinent, (96) arriving in late September of that year, (97) just as the debate over responsible government for the region turned hot. Curtis was immediately struck by the divide in India over Indian self-rule. On the one hand, he met with British officials who, though often sympathetic to Indian ambitions for responsible government and equal citizenship, believed that Indian representation in any "Imperial Parliament" would not be feasible until Indians were prepared to govern themselves. In the words of Sir Reginald Craddock, whom Curtis interviewed in November 1916, self-government for India was "like a distant peak with the light on it." (98) Britain's official position was "responsible government in the future; trusteeship in the present." On the other hand, Curtis conversed with Indian nationalists who asserted India's own tradition of self-rule. At a conference of Indian princes in Delhi in October 1916, Curtis himself was lectured on the divine nature of Indian princely rule. (99) Curtis believed that imperial citizens, however defined, must also remain subjects of the British crown, the repository of imperial loyalty. As such, he was unmoved by arguments for Indian self-government predicated on the separate sovereignty of Indian rulers. He did respect the educated upper tiers of Indian society, however, and envisioned a halfway house that he believed might be amenable to both sides. (100) This house he termed "dyarchy," a concept that was to influence the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms settled upon in 1919. (101)
Curtis envisioned dyarchy as a system of parallel jurisdictions designed to gradually incorporate Indians into the ruling class. Britain's task was not to educate Indians for self-government in a formal manner, but rather to bring Indians into the current decision-making structure. "It is in the workshop of actual experience alone that electorates will acquire the art of self-government, however highly educated they may be." (102) In advancing this position in his conversations with Indian and British officials, Curtis was recommending a limited citizenship for India. He explicitly differentiated this status from self-government, however: "while self-government involves election, election does not involve self government." (103) Thus, while he believed that educated Indians were capable of exercising the franchise responsibly and participating in local government, he did not believe that they were as yet capable of doing so without the watchful eye of the Raj.
Nor, in Curtis's view, were Indians as yet ready to participate as equals in his proposed Imperial Parliament. Consistent with the philosophy of gradualism implicit in dyarchy, Curtis suggested that India's current position in such a body should be an advisory one. Such a measure, he argued, would provide India a voice in the Imperial Legislature, while ensuring that quarrels between Hindu and Muslim voices would not cause trouble. (104) He had some Indian support for this position. Babu Surendranatti Banerjee, editor of the Indian newspaper Bengalie, agreed with Curtis's view on the need to educate Indians in governing before responsible government could be instituted. He urged Curtis to lobby British officials to include property and education qualifications in any expansion of the Indian electorate, thereby ensuring highly qualified Indian elected representatives. (105)
Curtis's adherence to principles of tutelage was accompanied by a conviction that force was still the ultimate basis of British authority: "to maintain order you must legislate against disorder." (106) Writing in his travel diary on Indian nationalism, he even accepts the use of military force in the event of uprisings, (107) Still, he was hopeful that a pan-imperial patriotism would result from the gradual inclusion of Indians in local, and later national, government. He was less concerned with fostering in Indians a personal devotion to the monarch, as existed in the dominions, but rather hoped to generate local patriotism, a self-pride in the institutions that the empire had allowed to flourish. Patriotism, in Curtis's view, was a higher allegiance to the ideals that made one's country (or, in this case, empire-commonwealth) worth preserving. He reached back to his earlier invocation of Hamilton's federalism, noting that the local patriotisms of the former thirteen colonies continued to flourish under the aegis of the new American Republic. Political experience, Curtis continued, would precede the necessary social reform through which true equality would emerge: "[the] creation of electorates involves an experience of responsibility." (108)
Curtis's presence in India was not without controversy. Consistent with the Round Table modus operandi of anonymous publication and informal lobbying, Curtis worked "behind the curtain" while informally "polling" the public on its potential receptivity to a federal imperial system. This approach attracted criticism. The "Indian Letter Controversy" erupted on 28 December 1916, when a private letter Curtis had intended for Kerr was leaked and published in the Bombay Chronicle. (109) The letter was marked "private" and was destined for circulation to Round Table members and subscribers. In it, Curtis summarized his early conversations with Indians, and elaborated on India's place in the proposed Imperial Parliament. The Chronicle recounted what in its view were the letter's most pernicious points: the nefarious working methods of the Round Table, Curtis's desultory and offensive linking of India with Central Africa as imperial societies not yet ready for the mantle of responsible government, and the Round Table's goal of responsible government as the purpose of empire in India. The response w as swift and severe. New India wrote that Curtis's views on India were "a tissue of misrepresentations and half-truths more diabolical than lies," and chided the prophet for lecturing Indians on government "in the land where village self-government existed, when England was unborn." (110) The Beharee lamented that the letter was just the sort of thing to be expected from Englishmen who knew nothing of India. (111)
Curtis's reputation as an honest broker in imperial affairs was preserved by the intervention of Sir James Meston, governor of the United Provinces and an India delegate at the 1917 Imperial Conference in London, who spoke well of Curtis, calling him impetuous but loyal to the empire. (112) Affairs in India were more combustible. His position in jeopardy of being compromised, Curtis responded to the allegations of perfidy and authoritarianism not with direct rebuttals, but by offering to the public the full context of his views. (113) In March of 1917 Curtis outlined his position in the Indian press, in which he made a virtue out of necessity by publicly endorsing the idea of responsible government as Britain's vision for India. He published his response in full as A Letter to the People of India on Responsible Government in May 1917. The Indian press now became more conciliatory, expressing hope that here was a voice that understood Indian nationalism. In extolling the virtue of gradualism as the path to responsible government, Curtis effectively sidestepped his private comparison of Indians and Africans as peoples as yet "beyond the pale," too immature to partake equally in the imperial citizenship he envisioned for the dominions.
It is tempting to view Curtis's response to the letter controversy as a partial mea culpa, a recognition on his part that India was in fact more like Britain than he had previously thought, and that it therefore should not be patronized with "tutelage" but instead brought into the imperial fold as a full partner. (114) To adopt such a view is to argue, however, that Curtis's ideas on imperial citizenship were motivated by expediency. This jars with the evidence. The desire to foster a "wider patriotism" was part of his notion of imperial citizenship as early as the later years of his service in South Africa. The notion of an imperial citizenship that incorporated Indians was not mere rhetoric. Had Curtis wanted to placate white subjects uncomfortable with any proposal to include "coloured" subjects within an imperial citizenship, he could simply have avoided the issue, as he in fact did concerning Africa. Curtis certainly was not an enlightened voice on matters of race--no plan for equal citizenship ever passed his lips. That said, no one else of Curtis's generation proffered such a plan either.
On this point it is revealing that Curtis left India in 1918 a frustrated man. The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, which in retrospect clearly laid the foundation for eventual Indian independence, and upon which Curtis's ideas were directly influential, did not at the time satisfy Curtis. He found them too cautious, and lamented that they did not enact in full the principle of dyarchy that he favored. At the same time, Curtis was never able to grasp the sophistication and deep roots of Indian nationalism, and thus failed to understand why some nationalists viewed dyarchy as simply a perpetuation of the status quo by alternate means. As was his pattern when confronted with political setback, instead of reevaluating his message or his political strategy, Curtis moved his campaign to a different imperial front--Ireland. He served as the Colonial Office's advisor on Irish affairs, and was the second secretary to the British delegation that signed the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty creating the Irish Free State. (115) The treaty drew in part on his conviction that shared authority and citizenship would subsume internecine rivalries (i.e., secure peace) within a federal structure. As with India, Curtis's ideas on imperial citizenship when applied to Ireland proved, at best, a mixed result.
Despite his various difficulties, Lionel Curtis was particularly well suited to his chosen role as imperial spokesman. His early experiences at Oxford and in South Africa impressed upon him the importance of empire as an instrument of peace through unity. A strong work ethic, broad social connections, lengthy publicity campaigns in each of the dominions, and an insatiable curiosity about his fellow imperial subjects contributed to his influence. Drawing upon the union he had helped bring about in South Africa, as well as the Hamiltonian model, Curtis argued that imperial federation would lead to unity. He saw in a federal empire the potential template for a world-state, the first step in bringing nations together within a single political framework. Curtis's co-creation, the Round Table, set about raising support for such an institution in both Britain and the dominions. Curtis believed that an imperial federation would encourage the political participation of all members of the empire, eventually bringing about an egalitarian imperial citizenship. The midwife for this process was to be an "authoritarian liberalism," whereby Britain instructed the empire's nonwhite members in British political culture.
Curtis's imperial reach proved longer than his grasp. In advancing an idealistic view of empire, he overlooked many of the elements that pointed instead to imperial devolution and growing nationalism. Most importantly, he failed to recognize the nascent feelings of national identity at play in both the settlement colonies and the dependent empire, and overestimated the degree to which political tutelage could persuade colonial peoples to see the benefits of the British imperium. While he was open to the notion of a more inclusive empire, and saw as one of Britain's foremost tasks the creation of such an entity, his proposals offered little immediate solace for the empire's nonwhite subjects. He had convinced himself of the need for change, but not the necessity. The concept of imperial citizenship that Curtis advocated could only be created once an imperial state itself had come into being. Because Curtis and his Round Table peers were unable to help bring about such a transition, the imperial citizenship he envisioned also failed to materialize.
Nonetheless, his ideas were influential in framing the political evolution of empire in the mid-twentieth century. Perhaps of greatest significance was his concept of dyarchy, which epitomized the British style of informal empire, and ironically, given Curtis's support for imperial federation, proved an essential stepping-stone in India's progress toward independence. Britain increasingly clung to the empire in the interwar era as a potential counterweight to its international rivals. Curtis's ideas thus found resonance just as the empire reemerged as a political priority. Ideas of imperial citizenship were eclipsed in the 1930s, however, as the specter of fascism drew attention elsewhere. Though a member of Chatham House, a collection of foreign policy advisors that included several former Kindergarten peers, Curtis's priority remained imperial union, even as events made the proposition increasingly untenable. (116) If his work for imperial citizenship became dated within his lifetime, the "Prophet" nonetheless illustrates the paradoxes at the heart of the early-twentieth-century empire. The imperialism of the era was imbued with both liberty and oppression, opportunity and inequality. As scholars debate with increasing vigor the merits of globalization, (117) the ideas of earlier proponents of imperial citizenship, with its global pretensions, take on renewed significance as cautionary tales.
(1). On Curtis's early work with Milner and Smuts in South Africa, see Walter Nimocks, Milner's Young Men: The "Kindergarten" in Edwardian Imperial Affairs (Durham, N.C., 1968). Ward was converted to the Round Table cause when Curtis visited New Zealand in 1911, and put forward a scheme for imperial federation, widely believed to have been influenced by Curtis, at the 1911 Imperial Conference. See Minutes of the Proceedings of the Imperial Conference of 1911, Cd. 5745, 71. Curtis advised Churchill on Ireland, impressing upon the Colonial Secretary a federal solution to the Home Rule issue. See John McColgan, "Implementing the 1921 Treaty: Lionel Curtis and Constitutional Procedure," Irish Historical Studies 20.79 (1977).
(2.) Lionel Curtis--Vincent Massey, 20 June 1911, The Round Table Papers of Lionel Curtis [hereafter RTPLC], MSS English History, 793/5, Bodleian Library, Oxford University. The bulk of Curtis's papers for the period 1895-1919 were lost in a fire at Curtis's house at Kidlington in 1933. All that remains are a small selection of letters from his early service in South Africa, covering the years 1900-02. Beyond this material, there exist miscellaneous letters from the following three decades, mostly copies secured from other sources, and material relating to his work with the Round Table. Students of Curtis are fortunate to have a guide to his life in Deborah Lavin's biography, From Empire to International Commonwealth: A Biography of Lionel Curtis (Oxford, 1995).
(3.) Curtis's industry was legendary, his peers remarking with a mixture of bemusement and wonder on both his tenacity (Kerr: "I know of no other man with so big a furnace in his belly") and his work habits (while laboring on the "Egg" in 1911, Curtis wrote to Duncan that he had cut his work day back to 10 hours a day to avoid strain). Kerr's quote appears in every substantial work on Curtis. See, for instance, Norman Rose, The Cliveden Set (London, 2000), 64 and Kathryn Seygal Patterson, The Decline of Dominance: India and the Careers of Lionel Curtis, Philip Kerr, and Reginald Coupland (Ph.D. diss., Bryn Mawr College, 1989), 53. On Curtis's work habits, see Curtis--Patrick Duncan, 8 August 1911, MSS Curtis, 2/82, Curtis Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford University.
(4.) The impact of a subject's personality is often difficult for historians to assess. A sense of Curtis's dynamic presence is conveyed in a recent elegy to the Round Table by the late Henry Hodson, who knew Curtis. See Harry Hodson, "The Round Table: Until the Early 1930s," The Round Table 352 (1999): 677-94.
(5.) Lavin, From Empire to International Commonwealth, x.
(6.) In addition to From Empire to International Commonwealth, see Lavin, "Lionel Curtis and the Idea of Commonwealth" in Oxford and the Idea of Commonwealth (London, 1982); John Kendle, The Round Table Movement and Imperial Union, ed. Frederick Madden and D. K. Fieldhouse (Toronto, 1975); and Dewitt Clinton Ellinwood, Jr., "The Round Table Movement and India," Journal of Commonwealth Political Studies 9.1 (1971): 183-209.
(7.) For a survey of postcolonial work on empire, see Bill Schwarz, "Conquerors of Truth: Reflections on Postcolonial Theory," in The Expansion of England: Race, Ethnicity and Cultural History, ed. Schwarz (New York, 1996), 9-31. One drawback of such work is that it sometimes conceives of the imperial power, and imperialism itself, as a deus ex machina, obscuring any nuanced understanding of dynamics at the metropole and conflating individuals and time periods that were varied and often contradictory.
(8.) This important historical point has been raised by Andrew Thompson, Imperial Britain: The Empire in British Politics, c. 1880-1932 (Harlow, 2000) and Phillip Buckner, "Whatever Happened to the British Empire?" Journal of the CHA/Revue de la S.H.C. 4 (1993): 3-32. The renewed interest in Britain's ties to the settlement colonies has been given tangible form in the recently convened British World conferences. See Buckner, "Reinventing the British World," The Round Table 93.368 (2003): 77-88.
(9.) The phrase is drawn from Benedict Anderson's seminal work Imagined Communities (London, 1982).
(10.) Historians of education are amongst the few to study this topic. See Stephen Heathorn, For Home, Country and Race: Constructing Gender, Class and Englishness in the Elementary School, 1880-1914 (Toronto, 2000), or James A. Mangan, Benefits Bestowed? Education and British Imperialism (Manchester, 1987).
(11.) Work on citizenship and Empire has concentrated mainly on the post-WWII era, when emigration from the British Commonwealth became a contentious domestic issue. See Rieko Karatani, Defining British Citizenship (London, 2002); Randall Hansen, Citizenship and Immigration in Postwar Britain: The Institutional Foundations of a Multicultural Nation (Oxford, 2000); and Kathleen Paul, Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era (Ithaca, N.Y., 1997). More general studies of British citizenship include Ann Dummet and Andrew Nicol, Subjects, Citizens, Aliens, and Others (London, 1990); Vaughn Bevan, The Development of British Immigration Law (London, 1986); and James Walvin, Passage to Britain: Immigration in British History and Politics (Harmondsworth, 1984).
(12.) For a broader discussion of early-twentieth-century attempts to define a British imperial citizenship, see Daniel Gorman, "Wider and Wider Still?: Racial Politics, Intra-Imperial Immigration and the Absence of an Imperial Citizenship in the British Empire," Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 3.3 (Winter 2002).
(13.) David Cannadine portrays much of the intellectual and material form of this nexus in Ornamentalism (Oxford: 2001).
(14). See Hugh Cunningham, "The Language of Patriotism, 1750-1914," History Workshop Journal 12 (1981): 8-33. Challenges to conservative hegemony over imperial sentiment have recently emerged. See Paul Reading, "The Liberal Party and Patriotism in Early Twentieth Century Britain," 20th Century British History 12.3 (2001): 269-302. On patriotism and the British Left, see Paul Ward, Red Flag and Union Jack: Englishness, Patriotism, and the British Left, 1881-1924 (London, 1998).
(15.) The Times, 25 November 1955. On the influence of Curtis's evangelical roots on his later political ideas, see Gerald Studdert-Kennedy, "Christianity, Statecraft and Chatham House: Lionel Curtis and World Order," Diplomacy and Statecraft 6.2 (1995): 470-89; and Studdert-Kennedy, "Lionel Curtis: Federalism and India," Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 24.2 (1996), 200-07.
(16.) Curtis, (undelivered) address to the Rotary Club of Cape Town, 26 March 1935. Cited in Lavin, From Empire to Commonwealth, 18.
(17.) Curtis to Mrs. G. J. Curtis [his mother], 1 June 1910, Curtis Papers, MSS Curtis, 2/1.
(18.) Curtis, "Report of Curtis's speech at Carlton Hotel before his return from the Transvaal," 30 October 1906. Curtis Papers, MSS, 126/6 (Speeches). The Parable of the Talents is recounted in Matthew 25: 14-30.
(19.) John Wolffe, God and Greater Britain (London, 1994), 166, 215-25 passim.
(20.) Green's central works are Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation and Prolegomena to Ethics. German metaphysics also occupied an important place in the intellectual firmament of late-Victorian Britain, though it did not supplant empiricism as orthodoxy, and J. S. Mill's Principles of Political Economy remained the curriculum's basis. See Kurt Willis, "The Introduction and Critical Reception of Hegelian thought in Britain, 1830-1900," Victorian Studies 32.1 (1988): 85-111; and Sandra den Otter, British Idealism and Social Explanation: A Study in Late-Victorian Thought (Oxford, 1996), 23-24, 41, 43-44.
(21.) Den Otter, 6-7. See also Andrew Vincent and Raymond Plant, Philosophy, Politics, and Citizenship: The Life and Thought of the British Idealists (Oxford, 1984).
(22.) Curtis to Herbert Baker, 1925, cited in Lavin From Empire to Commonwealth, 13.
(23.) Oxford English Reference Dictionary (Oxford, 1996), 1218.
(24.) Curtis and his Kindergarten associates referred colloquially to the Selborne Memorandum as "The Egg," the shell from which union would eventually hatch.
(25.) The details of Curtis's work in pursuing Milner's goal of a "British" South Africa, and then in framing the "Egg," have been well-covered elsewhere. See Lavin, From Empire to Commonwealth, 63-80, and Kendle, The Round Table Movement and Imperial Union, 27-30, 170-80.
(26.) Curtis to Leonard Courtney, 24 April 1900, MSS Curtis 1/208. Curtis worked as Courtney's secretary with the London County Council (LCC) before the latter recommended him for service with Milner.
(27.) Nimocks's Milner's Young Men (1968) is the most complete work on this topic. The sobriquet was bestowed on the group by their South African critics, led by the lawyer Sir William Marriot and the politician and Premier John X. Merriman, who found objectionable the aristocratic cocksureness of men they deemed carpetbaggers. Lavin suggests that Curtis himself (in With Milner in South Africa, 344) brought the phrase into common usage. See Lavin, From Empire to Commonwealth, 36n.
(28.) On Richard Jebb's concept of colonial nationalism, see Jebb, Studies in Colonial Nationalism (London, 1905) and Deryck Schreuder, "Richard Jebb 1898-1905" in The Rise of Colonial Nationalism, ed. John Eddy and Deryck Schreuder (Sydney, 1988), esp. 71-87.
(29.) As an example, witness the explosion of the popular press in the first decade of the twentieth century. See John Carey, The Intellectuals and the Masses (London, 1992).
(30.) Thomas Metcalfe, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge, 1997 ), 59. Metcalfe argues that authoritative liberalism was the ideological consequence of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, an event that scuppered the certainties of an earlier imperial liberalism, voiced by India men such as the senior and junior Mill (44-45). He asserts that the second half of the nineteenth century was marked by a new emphasis on race and the consequent ordering of a typology of difference. While there is no doubt that the idea of "race" assumed an ever more important role in imperial affairs, certainly from the 1880s, see below for the argument that the cleavage between notions of "culture" and "race" as the imperial modus operandi is perhaps overstated.
(31.) The phrase is used by Owen Harries in his "The Anglosphere Illusion," The National Interest 63 (Spring 2001): 130-31.
(32.) See Guy Robertson MacLean, The Imperial Federation Movement in Canada, 1884-1902 (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1958).
(33.) The Imperial Federation League existed from 1884-93, headquartered in London with branches in the settlement colonies. The federal idea faced competition from advocates of a military or customs, rather than political, union, and was overshadowed by the contentious Home Rule debates of the 1880s. Imperial federation was eclipsed by the imperial conference system by century's end. See John Kendle, Federal Britain: A History (London, 1997), 48, 53, 81.
(34.) See, for instance, G. R. Searle, The Quest for National Efficiency: A Study in British Politics and Political Thought, 1899-1914 (Oxford, 1971).
(35.) The literature on the causes of the Anglo-Boer war, and Milner's role therein, is vast. For an introduction to the topic, see especially A. N. Porter, The Origins of the South African War: Joseph Chamberlain and the Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1895-1899 (London, 1980). The essays in The South African War: the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902, ed. Peter Warwick (Harlow, 1980) are also still instructive. The leading contemporary account of the conflict's origins, emphasizing the negative role of capital as the foremost causal factor, is J. A. Hobson, The War in South Africa, Its Causes and Effects (London, 1900).
(36.) The Orange Free State and the Transvaal were Afrikaner provinces that had resisted British rule in the late 1870s and early 1880s. After the First Boer War (1880-81), they maintained domestic autonomy by agreeing to British suzerainty over foreign affairs. Britain's frustrations over its inability to influence internal affairs in the provinces brought about the Second Boer War (1899-1902), whereby the Orange Free State and the Transvaal were annexed by the British in 1900 and 1902, respectively. Each then became a crown colony. Upon taking office in 1906, the new Liberal government of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman gave the colonies self-government.
(37.) Curtis diary, 16 August 1910, MSS Curtis, 142/101.
(38.) In holding to this view, Curtis shared much with his Fabian counterparts and their philosophy of achieving political change through the "permeation" of their ideas into official minds.
(39.) Curtis, "Copy of Speech on Leaving Johannesburg Council," 27 November 1903, MSS Curtis, 1/222.
(40.) Leonie Foster, High Hopes. The Men and Motives of the Australian Round Table (Melbourne, 1986), 12.
(41.) See [Curtis], Green Memorandum (1910), 254. The Green Memorandum was also known as "the annotated memorandum" and "Round Table Studies, First Series."
(42.) "Memorandum of conversations which took place between a few English and South African friends at intervals during the summer of 1909," MSS Curtis, 156/1/1-8.
(43.) Curtis to Valentine Chirol, 22 March 1912, RTPLC, MSS English History, 823/19.
(44.) The journal is still published by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London.
(45.) Curtis to Chirol, 27 March 1912, RTPLC, MSS English History, 823/32; Curtis to Robert Seton-Watson, 4 September 1912, MSS English History, 823/82.
(46.) Curtis--Kerr, 16 September 1915, MSS English History, 838/27.
(47.) [Curtis], The Problem of the Commonwealth (London, 1916), vi.
(48.) See Amery to Brand, 25 May 1914, Round Table Papers, Leopold Amery, MSS English History, 812/36.
(49.) On Australian subscriptions, see Foster, High Hopes, 4. On Canadian subscriptions, see Reginald Coupland--R. H. Brand, 9 July 1917, Round Table Papers, MSS English History, 794/119.
(50.) Kendle, The Round Table Movement, 157-59; Lavin, From Empire to Commonwealth, 117, 132.
(51.) Lavin, From Empire to Commonwealth, 120-21.
(52.) On the British Empire delegation to Versailles, see Margaret Macmillan, Paris 1919 (New York, 2002), 36-49.
(53.) Foster, High Hopes, 58.
(54.) The Problem of the Commonwealth, 68. Poor New Zealand is apparently to be understood as an appendage of Australia.
(55.) The Problem of the Commonwealth, 46. Emphasis in original. For an excellent account of the influence of Lord Durham's report on subsequent imperial thought, see Janet Ajzenstat, The Political. Thought of Lord Durham (Kingston, Ont., 1988), 42-51 passim.
(56.) Lavin, From Empire to Commonwealth, 61.
(57.) Curtis was ambivalent about the issue of what was then called the "coloured vote" in South Africa, though this is not to imply that he was necessarily progressive on issues of race. He was, for instance, quick to reach agreement with Jan Christian Smuts, in conversation in South Africa in 1909, that the expansion of the franchise to black South Africans was not politically advisable at that time. See Curtis diary, 4 April 1909, MSS Curtis, 142/14. While the discussion of Curtis's ideas on imperial citizenship and race in this article are confined to his idea of dyarchy and India, both Curtis and the Round Table had much to say on the issue of race. More strident critics have drawn a highly tenuous link between the Kindergarten's ambivalent position on race and the creation of apartheid in South Africa in 1948. See Bernard Magubane, The Making of a Racist State (Asmara, Eritrea, 1996), 281. Milder critics note the fundamental disagreements between the British and Afrikaner views of a future South Africa and attribute the eventual cleavage between the two sides in part to the hauteur of Milner and his disciples. See O. Geyser, "Jan Smuts and Alfred Milner," The Round Table 360 (2001): 415-32.
(58.) Cited in Lionel Curtis, The Problem of the Commonwealth (London, 1916), 101.
(59.) Two examples of empirical work that argue the centrality of race in imperial politics are Paul Rich, Race and Empire in British Politics (Cambridge, N.Y., 1986) and the essays in Cultures of Empire: Colonizers in Britain and the Empire in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: A Reader, ed. Catherine Hall (New York, 2000). See also Rich, "The Long Victorian Sunset: Anthropology, Eugenics, and Race in Britain, 1900-1948," Patterns of Prejudice 18.3 (1984): 3-17.
(60.) While there is not space here for a full discussion on the topic, such usage was relatively consistent throughout Europe in the late nineteenth century. "Pedigree" and "lineage" are alternate meanings. "Race" did not take on its current pejorative meaning until the mid-twentieth century. See Andrew Wheatcroft, The Habsburgs (London, 1995), 286-87.
(61.) Archbishop McGoun, A Federal Parliament of the British People (Toronto, 1890), 2, 3-4.
(62.) Henry Page Croft, The Path of Empire (London, 1912). See also Larry L. Witherell, Rebel on the Right: Henry Page Croft and the Crisis of British Conservatism, 1903-1914 (Newark, N.J., 1997).
(63.) See Raymond Williams, Culture and Society (New York, 1958).
(64.) [Curtis], The Problem of the Commonwealth, plate 2, "Population of the World divided according to States," faces 69.
(65.) Milner had encouraged the import of Indian and Chinese "coolie" laborers, a measure designed both to develop the gold-mining industry and undercut the negotiating position of African laborers. The goal in both cases was to attract large numbers of white settlers to South Africa, a dream that went unfulfilled.
(66.) Patterson, 60.
(67.) [Curtis], Round Table Studies, Second Series, Installment E (London, 1915), 681.
(68.) Michael W. Doyle, "Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part I," Philosophy and Public Affairs 3.12 (1983), 213.
(69.) Ibid., 683.
(70.) Inderjeet Parmar, "Anglo-American Elites in the Interwar Years: Idealism and Power in the Intellectual Roots of Chatham House and the Council on Foreign Relations," International Relations 16.1 (2002): 74-75. Curtis later engaged more directly with questions of international cooperation in the decade after the outbreak of war in 1949, advocating a world government modelled on the Commonwealth example. See The Way to Peace (London, 1944), World War, Its Cause and Cure: The Problem Reconsidered in View of the Release of Atomic Energy (London, 1945), World Revolution in the Cause of Peace (Oxford, 1949), and The Open Road to Freedom (Oxford, 1950).
(71.) Cecil Rhodes made Rhodes scholarships available to Americans in his famous will in the hopes of strengthening cross-Atlantic ties of sentiment.
(72.) See Frederick Scott Oliver, Alexander Hamilton: An Essay on American Union (London, 1906). On Oliver's influence on imperial reconstruction, see John D. Fair, "F. S. Oliver and Britain's Constitutional Crisis," Twentieth Century British History 10.1 (1999): 1-26; and D. G. Boyce and J. O. Stubbs, "F. S. Oliver, Lord Selborne and Federalism," The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 5.1 (1976): 53-81.
(73.) "The White's Man's Burden" appeared in McClure's Magazine, 12 February 1899. The first stanza, usually cited (rightly) to indicate Kipling's jingoism, reads as follows: "Take up the White Man's burden/Send forth the best ye breed-/ Go bind your sons to exile/ To serve your captive's need;/ To wait in heavy harness/ On fluttered folk and wild-/ Your new-caught, sullen peoples,/ Half devil and half child." "Burden" here should be read not as something necessarily unpleasant, a base means to an end (though many of course saw it as such), but rather as "responsibility." It is patronizing in the precise sense that Kipling is extolling the role of the Anglo-American as patron over his wards. Indeed, in the third stanza Kipling urges Americans to "Fill full the mouth of Famine,/ And bid the sickness cease."
(74.) See for example Hamilton writing in Federalist Papers 85, "Concluding Remarks: Whether the Constitution Has Not Been Shown Worthy of the Public Approbation" (28 May 1788): "It is not impossible that these circumstances may have occasionally betrayed me into intemperances of expression which I did not intend; it is certain that I have frequently felt a struggle between sensibility and moderation; and if the former has in some instances prevailed, it must be my excuse that it has been neither often nor much." Selected Federalist Papers, Dover edition (Mineola, N.Y., 2001), 204-05.
(75.) Round Table Studies, Second Series, Installment E, 683.
(76.) Ibid., 688.
(77.) Ibid., 689.
(78.) Emphasis added.
(79.) Ibid., 695, 699, 700.
(80.) Curtis to Lady Selborne, 8 December 1915, MSS Curtis, 2/202.
(81.) Anon., "Lionel Curtis: The Prophet of Organic Union," The Round Table 45 (1955), 106. The Beit Chair in Colonial History was then held by the Canadian H. E. Egerton. The Beit Chair, under whose auspices Beit lecturers worked, was an endowment of Alfred Beit, the South African mining magnate, and a fervent imperialist.
(82.) Milner to Curtis, 27 November 1915, MSS Curtis, 2/188. See also Milner, The Nation and the Empire: Being a Collection of Speeches and Addresses (London, 1913), xxiv-xxv, xxxiii.
(83.) Curtis to Milner, 29 November 1915, MSS Curtis, 2/199-200.
(84.) Lady Selborne to Curtis, 10 November 1911; 15 November 1911; 16 January 1913, MSS Curtis, 2/96, 98, 129. Andrew Bonar Law was born in rural New Brunswick in 1858. He moved to Scotland as a child.
(85.) RTPLC MS English History 793/82-84, 202.
(86.) Minutes of the Ralegh Club, 6 December 1912, 2 February 1913. Rhodes House, Oxford. The ubiquitous Milner joined the group in April 1913. The club spelled its name "Ralegh" because that is how their namesake, the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, spelled his own name. Other imperial organizations Curtis belonged to at Oxford included the Colonial Club, a largely academic forum encompassing many Rhodes Scholars and other colonials then living in Britain. It, too, often invited public figures to give addresses.
(87.) The 1911 election in Canada turned on the issue of Laurier's support for a Canadian navy. Conservative leader Robert Borden attacked Laurier for not showing sufficient imperial patriotism, while Henri Bourassa castigated the prime minister for neglecting Quebec.
(88.) Minutes of the Ralegh Club, 25 May 1913.
(89.) Ibid., 8 June 1913.
(90.) Ibid., 19 October 1913. Lockhart was also the club's founder.
(91.) Ibid., 26 October 1913.
(92.) Ibid., 11 May 1913. On Jebb's scheme for a Britannic Alliance, see Jebb, The Britannic Question: A Survey of Alternatives (London, 1913).
(93.) Curtis to Keith Feiling. 20 February 1912, RTPLC, MSS English History, 793/31.
(94.) "The passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint." Hamilton, Federalist Paper 15, 1 December 1787. Selected Federalist Papers, 45.
(95.) Curtis, The Problem of the Commonwealth, 201.
(96.) India was of intermittent concern before this date. See Curtis to Graeme Patterson, 4 June 1912, MSS English History, 823/61; Kerr to Curtis, 17 April 1912, MSS English History, 823/36; Kerr--H. A. L. Fischer, 8 November 1910, MSS English History, 823/5, where Kerr records that he sent Curtis Sir W. Hunter's The Indian Empire, which provided Curtis with much of his historical knowledge of India. The Round Table tentatively addressed the Indian issue in [Phillip Kerr], "India and the Empire," Round Table, 2 (1912): 587-626.
(97.) Curtis diary, 25 September 1916, MSS Curtis, 143/5. Curtis elsewhere records that he arrived in India in October of 1916. See Curtis, Letters to the People of India on Responsible Government. The date is here given as September, as that is consistent with his diary entry, though it is conceivable that either the diary date is incorrect, or that he met with the Bombay government official whom he refers to in the diary while still at sea.
(98.) Curtis diary, 11 November 1911, MSS Curtis, 143/12.
(99.) Curtis diary, 31 October 1911, MSS Curtis, 143/8.
(100.) See Ornamentalism for the argument that British imperial actors viewed the empire in terms of class, and thus accorded respect to fellow elites in the colonies.
(101.) Curtis spelled out his thoughts on dyarchy and Indian citizenship in his three works on India, A Letter to the People of India (Bombay, 1917) [reprinted in Dyarchy, 38-95], Letters to the People of India on Responsible Government (London, 1918) [reprinted in Dyarchy, 357-66], and especially Dyarchy: Papers Relating to the Application of the Principle of Dyarchy to the Government of India, to which are Appended the Report of the Joint Select Committee and the Government of India Act, 1919 (Oxford, 1920).
(102.) Curtis, Letters to the People of India on Responsible Government, 159.
(103.) Curtis diary, 26 November 1916, MSS Curtis, 143/26.
(104.) Curtis diary, 13 October 1916; 7 November 1916, MSS Curtis, 143/17, 32.
(105.) Curtis diary, 12 December 1916, MSS Curtis, 143138.
(106.) [Curtis], "Notes on India," undated manuscript, MSS Curtis, 143/116.
(107.) "England could wipe them [potential 'rebels'] out with big guns," Curtis diary, 14 December 1916, MSS Curtis, 143/41.
(108.) "Notes on India," MSS Curtis, 143/174.
(109.) Bombay Chronicle, 28 December 1916. Patterson notes that Gandhi soon after took credit for the leak, and indeed Henry Polak, a Gandhi associate, reminded Congress the day after the letter appeared in the Chronicle that Curtis had supported anti-Asian legislation when he was in South Africa. See Patterson, 127. The "letter controversy" is briefly recounted in Lavin (140-41), though she does not mention Gandhi's alleged involvement.
(110.) New India, 29 December 1916, Round Table cuttings, MSS English history, 851/6.
(111.) The Beharee, 4 January 1917, Round Table cuttings, MSS English history, 851/13-14, 8.
(112.) It must be stated that Meston, governor of the United Provinces, also had a less altruistic motive for defending Curtis. Meston himself had been implicated in the Curtis letter by virtue of Curtis having added (disingenuously) Meston's name as a co-writer to add weight to his impressions. Meston had also extended the invitation that brought Curtis to India in the first place, and thus saw himself partially responsible for the latter's activities.
(113.) Indian Social Reformer, 7 January 1917.
(114.) Patterson, 128-30. Patterson rightly observes that Curtis served Montagu in an advisory position, but it is incorrect to assume that the 1917 reforms, while representing a change of opinion for Montagu, also represented a change in position for Curtis. This is to erroneously contend that Curtis held an inflexible position regarding India before 1917, which is at odds with his record both at Oxford and in South Africa.
(115.) McColgan, "Implementing the 1921 Treaty," 313.
(116.) Curtis developed his ideas of international cooperation and union in the three volumes of Civitas Dei (London, 1934-37). He continued to point to imperial federation a model for peace until his death. See "Address by Lionel Curtis--Prevention of War," 14 September 1949, The Changing Commonwealth- Proceedings of the Fourth Unofficial Commonwealth Relations Conference, Ottawa (Toronto, 1950), 256-64.
(117.) Comparisons between late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century globalization and the British Empire are growing in number by the year. See Niall Ferguson, Empire (New York, 2003); for an identically titled, yet more theoretical, study of globalization, see Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass., 2000).
Daniel Gorman is an assistant professor of history at Trent University.
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