If now we turn our eyes a while from the foreign and domestic concerns of Great Britain proper, and look to the Greater Britain beyond the seas, we shall find that its progress has nowise lagged behind that of the mother Isle. To Lord Durham, the remarkable man sent out in 1838 to deal with the rebellion in Lower Canada, we owe the inauguration of a totally new scheme of colonial policy, which has been crowned with success wherever it has been introduced. It has succeeded in the vast Canadian Dominion, now stretching from ocean to ocean, and embracing all British North America, with the single exception of the Isle of Newfoundland. In 1867 this Federation was first formed, uniting then only the two Canadas with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, under a constitution framed on Lord Durham's plan, and providing for the management of common affairs by a central Parliament, while each province should have its own local legislature, and the executive be vested in the Crown, ruling through its Governor General. It had been made competent for the other provinces of British North America to join this Federation, if they should so will; and one after another has joined it, with the one exception mentioned above, which may or may not be permanent. The population of the Dominion has trebled, and its revenues have increased twenty-fold, since its constitution was thus settled.

The same system, it may be hoped, will equally succeed in that wonderful Australasia where our colonists now have the shaping of their destinies in their own hands, amid the yet unexplored amplitude of a land where "in the softest and sweetest air, and in an unexhausted soil, the fable of Midas is reversed; food does not turn to gold, but the gold with which the land is teeming converts itself into farms and vineyards, into flocks and herds, into crops of wild luxuriance, into cities whose recent origin is concealed and compensated by trees and flowers."

In such terms does a recent eye-witness describe the splendid prosperity attained within the last two or three decades by that Australia which our fathers thought of chiefly as a kind of far-off rubbish-heap where they could fling out the human garbage of England, to rot or redeem itself as it might, well out of the way of society's fastidious nostril, and which to our childhood was chiefly associated with the wild gold-fever and the wreck and ruin which that fever too often wrought. The transportation system, so far as Australia was concerned, came virtually to an end with the discovery of gold in the region to which we had been shipping off our criminals. The colonists had long been complaining of this system, which at first sight had much to recommend it, as offering a fair chance of reformation to the convict, and providing cheap labour for the land that received him. But it was found, as a high official said, that convict labour was far less valuable than the uncompelled work of honest freemen; and the contagious vices which the criminal classes brought with them made them little welcome. When to these drawbacks were added the difficulties and dangers with which the presence of the convict element in the population encumbered the new gold-mining industry, the question reached the burning stage. The system was modified in 1853, and totally abolished in 1857. Transports whose sentence were unexpired lingered out their time in Tasmania, whence the aborigines have vanished under circumstances of cruelty assuredly not mitigated by the presence of convicts in the island; but Australia was henceforth free from the blight.

The political life of these colonies may be said to have begun in the same year - 1853 - when the importation of criminals received its first check. New South Wales, the eldest of the Australian provinces, received a genuine constitution of its own; Victoria followed in 1856 - Victoria, which is not without its dreams of being one day "the chief State in a federated Australia," an Australia that may then rank as "a second United States of the Southern Hemisphere." Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and New Zealand, one after another, attained the same liberties; all have now representative governments, modelled on those of the mother country, but inevitably without the aristocratic element. Such an aristocracy as that of England is the natural growth of many centuries and of circumstances hardly likely to be duplicated - a fact which the Prince Consort once had occasion to lay very clearly before Louis Napoleon, anxious to surround himself with a similar nobility, if only he could manage it. But though the aristocratic element be lacking, the patriotic passion and the sentiment of loyalty are abundantly present; nor has the mother country any intellectual pre-eminence over her colonies, drawn immeasurably nearer to her in thought and feeling as communication has become rapid and easy.

There is something almost magical at first sight in the transformation which the Australian colonies have undergone in a very limited space of time; yet it is but the natural result of the untrammelled energy of a race sovereignly fitted to "subdue the earth." It is curious to read how in 1810 the convict settlement at Botany Bay - name of terror to ignorant home criminals, shuddering at the long, dreadful voyage and the imagined horrors of a savage country - was almost entirely nourished on imported food, now that the vast flocks and herds of Australia and New Zealand contribute no inconsiderable proportion of the food supply of Britain.

The record of New Zealand is somewhat less brilliant than that of its gigantic neighbour. This is due to somewhat less favourable circumstances, to a nobler and less manageable race of aborigines; the land perhaps more beautiful, is by the very character of its beauty less subduable. Its political life is at least as old as that of the old Australian colony, its constitution being granted about the same time; but this colony has needed, what Australia has not, the armed interference of the Home Government in its quarrels with the natives - a race once bold and warlike, able to hold their own awhile even against the English soldiers, gifted with eloquence, with a certain poetic imagination, and no inconsiderable intelligence. It seemed, too, at one moment as if these Maoris would become generally Christianised; but the kind of Christianity which they saw exemplified in certain colonists, hungry for land and little scrupulous as to the means by which they could gratify that hunger, largely undid the good effected through the agency of missionaries, the countrymen of these oppressors, whose evil deeds they were helpless to hinder. A superstition that was nothing Christian laid hold of many who had once been altogether persuaded to embrace the teachings of Jesus, and the relapsed Maoris doubtless were guilty of savage excesses; yet the original blame lay not chiefly with them; nor is it possible to regard without deep pity the spectacle presented at the present day of "the noblest of all the savage races with whom we have ever been brought in contact, overcome by a worse enemy than sword and bullet, and corrupted into sloth and ruin, ...ruined physically, demoralised in character, by drink." Nobler than other aborigines, who have faded out before the invasion of the white man, as they may be, their savage nobility has not saved them from the common fate; they too have "learned our vices faster than our virtues," aided by the speculative traders in alcoholic poison, who have followed on the track of the colonist, and who, devil's missionaries as they are, have counteracted too quickly the work of the Christian evangelists who preceded them.

The extraordinary natural fertility of the country, whose volcanic nature was very recently terribly demonstrated, is yet very far from being utilised to the utmost, the population of the islands, not inferior in extent to Great Britain, being yet a long way below that of London. Probably this "desert treasure-house of agricultural wealth" may, under wise self-government, yet rise to a position of magnificent importance.

Of all our colonies that in Southern Africa has the least reason to be proud of its recent history, which has not been rendered any fairer by the discovery of the great Diamond Fields, and the rush of all sorts and conditions of men to profit thereby. Into the entangled history of our doings in relation to Cape Colony - originally a Dutch settlement - and all our varied and often disastrous dealings with the Dutch-descended Boers and the native tribes in its neighbourhood, we cannot well enter. Our missionary action has the glory of great achievement in Southern Africa; of our political action it is best to say little.

A more encouraging scene is presented if we turn to the Fijian Isles, whose natives, once a proverb of cannibal ferocity, have been humanised and Christianised by untiring missionary effort, and by their own free-will have passed under British domination and are ruled by a British governor. The extraordinary change worked in the people of these isles, characterised now, as even in their heathen days, by a certain bold manliness, that hitherto has escaped the usual deterioration, is so great and unmistakable that critics predisposed to unfriendliness do not try to deny it.

In consequence of the immensely increased facilities of communication that we now enjoy, our own great food-producing dependencies and the vast corn-growing districts of other lands can pour their stores into our market - a process much aided by the successive removal of so many restrictions on commerce, and by the practical science which has overcome so many difficulties connected with the transport of slain meat and other perishable commodities. England seems not unlikely to become a wonderfully cheap country to live in, unless some new turn of events interferes with the processes which during the last two decades have so increased the purchasing power of money that, as is confidently stated, fifteen shillings will now buy what it needed twenty shillings to purchase twenty years ago. To this result, as a matter of course, the enormous development of our manufacturing and other industries has also contributed.

There is another side to the medal, and not so fair a one. The necessaries of life are cheaper; wages are actually higher, when the greater value of money is taken into account; more care is taken as to the housing of the poor; the workers of the nation have more leisure, and spend not a little of it in travelling, being now by far the most numerous patrons of the railway; the altered style of the conveyances provided for them is a sufficient testimony to their higher importance. All this is to the good; so, too, is the diminution in losses by bankruptcy and in general pauperism, the increasing thrift shown by the records of savings banks, the lengthening of life, the falling off in crime, which is actually - not proportionally - rarer than ten years ago, to go no further back.

Against this we have to set the facts that the terrible malady of insanity is distinctly on the increase - whether due to mere physical causes, to the high pressure at which modern society lives, or to the prevalent scepticisms which leave many wretched men so little tranquillising hope or faith, who shall say? - that all trades and professions are more or less overcrowded; and that there is a terrible amount, not of pauperism, but of hard-struggling poverty, massed up in the crowded, wretched, but high-priced tenements of great towns, and maintaining a forlorn life by such incessant, cruel labour as is not exacted from convicted criminals in any English prison. London, where this kind of misery is inevitably at its height, receives every week an accession of a thousand persons, who doubtless, in a great majority of cases, simply help to glut the already crowded labour market and still further lower the wages of the workers; and the other great towns in like manner grow, while the rural population remains stagnant or lessens. Agricultural distress, which helps to keep the tide of emigration high, also accounts in part for this singular, undesirable displacement of population; while recent testimony points to the fact that the terribly unsanitary and inefficient housing of the rural poor does much to drive the best and most laborious members of that class away from the villages and fields which might otherwise be the homes of happy and peaceful industry. For this form of evil, in town and country, private greed - frequently shown by small proprietors, who have never learnt that property has duties as well as rights - is very largely responsible; for how many other of the evils we have to deplore is not the greed of gain responsible?

The sins of the age are still much the same sins that the Laureate roughly arraigned when the Crimean war broke our long peace; denouncing the race for riches which turned men into "pickpockets, each hand lusting for all that is not its own;" denouncing the cruel selfishness of rich and poor as the vilest kind of civil war, being "underhand, not openly bearing the sword." We had made the blessings of peace a curse, he told us, in those days, "when only the ledger lived, and when only not all men lied; when the poor were hovelled and hustled together, each sex, like swine; when chalk and alum and plaster were sold to the poor for bread, and the spirit of murder worked in the very means of life." Yet those very days saw the uprising of a whole generation of noble servants of humanity, resolute to tight and overcome the rampant evils that surrounded them. And though we would avoid the error of praising our own epoch as though it alone were humane, as though we only, "the latest seed of Time, have loved the people well," and shown our love by deeds; though we would not deny that to-day has its crying abuses as well as yesterday; yet it is hardly possible to survey the broad course of our history during the past sixty years, and not to perceive, amid all the cross-currents - false ambitions, false pretences, mammon-worship, pitiless selfishness, sins of individuals, sins of society, sins of the nation - an ever-widening and mastering stream of beneficent energy, which has already wonderfully changed for the better many of the conditions of existence, and which, since its flow shows no signs of abating, we may hope to see spreading more widely, and bearing down in its great flood the wrecks of many another oppression and iniquity.