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Europe. She can now carry the cotton of Hindostan and
Georgia over land and sea, spin and weave it into stuffs, and then
carry it back to undersell the American and the Indian manu-
facturer, who sees the staple growing under the windows of his
factory. Having reached this point she throws off all protective
duties and invites the world to imitate her magnanimity.

The manufacture of cottons (coatings), seems to have begun at Man-
chester about 1640, the material being imported from the Levant. Tho
name occurs much earlier, but really designates woollen fabrics.

England's long persistence. 293

One measure of protection to English goods was the prohibition upon
the export of machinery for spinning, weaving or printing any sort of
fabric ; persons who "enticed any artificer to go to foreign parts in order
to practise or teach his trade " were liable to severe punishment. As
late as 1S42, the export of flax machinery was still forbidden.

§ 279. Since the time when the chief American colonies de-
clared and secured their independence, that is within the space
of a century, great changes in the industry of the world have
taken place. It has been, in another sense than the old phrase
meant, " a century of inventions." James Watt devised the
condensing steam-engine; Hargreaves the spinning-jenny ; Ark-
wright the spinning-frame and the factory system ; Crompton
the mule-jenny; Cartwright the power-loom; Whitney the
cotton-gin; Fitch the steamship ; Oliver Evans the high-press-
ure engine; Stephenson the locomotive; Morse the telegraph ;
Howe the sewing-machine. All these and a thousand less-noted
inventions have added new arms and legs to capital and endowed
the rich with the power to add to their wealth, to make steam
and iron do the work of a vast multitude of human hands. No
country has profited so vastly by these inventions as England ;
none has guarded with such jealousy the material interests upon
which she now bases her claims to greatness among the nations.
On her small- area she has gathered machines that do the work
of four hundred and fifty million people. Improved means of
communication have put her at the door of every other people
under heaven. Vast accumulations of capital and the command
of money at a low rate of interest, have enabled her to watch the
shifts and changes of the market, to destroy hostile competition
by temporary sacrifices, and to undersell every foreign manu-
facturer at will. Yet not until almost our own days has she ever
pretended to open her own markets to the competition of other
nations, and in very great measure this pretence is only a pretence.

§ 280. We have seen that Napoleon closed the market of
Europe against her wares, and shut her out from all parts of the
Continent. Even Russia, by the Peace of Tilsit (1807) joined
the Continental system. The declaration of war in 1803 by
England, when the ink on the peace of Amiens (1802) was


" hardly dry" (Talleyrand), was largely due to the commercial
jealousy of England. " The emperor," Talleyrand wrote to
Fox in 1S06, "does not think that this or that article of the
Treaty of Amiens has been the cause of the war ; he is con-
vinced that the true cause has been the refusal to make a treaty
of commerce against the industrial and manufacturing interests
of his subjects." But the overthrow of Napoleon, and the re-
lease of European nationalities from the imperial yoke, did not
bring to England the permanent open market that she expected.
France did not for an instant relax her protective system; the
Bourbons watered what the Corsican had planted. Germany
suffered for a time the misery of a sudden paralysis of her new-
born industries, but the rise of the Zollverein put an end to
this. Russia and the United States, after a period of Free Trade
and industrial depression, both went back to Protection in 1824.
Much the same was the course of events all over Europe.

The revolt of the Spanish-American colonies in 1820, and the
consequent destruction of the Spanish monopoly of their trade,
gave an opening for the export of large quantities of English
goods, which was eagerly embraced. The thoughtfulness engen-
dered by free competition was finely illustrated ; cities received
consignments of Epsom salts sufficient to physic every inhabitant
once a day for two or three generations to come; to others, in
which ice and snow had never been seen, whole cargoes of skates
and pattens were sent. This reckless trading to the supposed
Eldorados of the West, had its necessary results in a violent
commercial panic.

§ 281. Up to 1832 England was governed by the upper
classes, " the landed interest," who had influence enough to re-
turn the majority of her House of Commons. By the Reform
Bill of that year, such a redistribution of seats was effected, as
transferred the power to the middle classes, who were chiefly
interested in manufactures. "Since 1832 we have had a sys-
tematic course of legislation, in which the wants and the wishes
of the middle classes have been carefully attended to, and their
interests habitually consulted. But we have seen no signs of


the same solicitude with respect to the necessities and interests —
certainly not less pressing nor less important — of the working
classes." — (London Morning Post). This gradually gave a new
direction to the industrial policy of the country, and led to
changes in the legislation. The old restrictive duties upon for-
eign manufactures were removed or greatly reduced, in the hope
that the example would have the effect of leading other peoples
to throw open their markets to British goods. The protection
given to British agriculture hy the Corn Laws, was removed,
in order to secure cheaper food for the English laborer, and keep
" the natural and necessary rate of wages " at the lowest point,
so that the loom-lords might be able to sustain competition in
the price of their fabrics. From this era England has steadily
and unceasingly preached the beauties and benefits of unre-
stricted trade, and professed her repentance for the worse than
blunders of her former method, declaring that her own " experi-
ence has fully proved the injurious effect of the protective sys-
tem and the advantage of low duties upon manufactures."
(Government Minute, 1859). Homines facile credunt id quod
volunt (Crcsar).

" Mr. Pitt in 1787 found our customs law a mass of intricacy and con-
fusion. ' The mode in which he proposed to remedy this great abuse was
by abolishing all the duties which now subsisted in this confused and
complex manner, and to substitute in their stead one single duty on each
article, amounting, as nearly as possible, to the aggregate of all the vari-
ous subsidies already paid.' Also, ' in some few articles/ for example
timber, he meaut to introduce 'regulations of greater extent,' but such
was the general scope of his arrangement. During the war and during
the first years of peace, many augmentations of duty took place, some
for purposes of revenue, but with the effect of enhancing the stringency
of protection; some for protective purposes alone. The tariff underwent
a general revision in 1819, . . . and again under the government of Lord
Grey, a large number of minor duties were reduced in 1 SI52 and 1833, but
it was in the interval between those two periods that the most important
relaxations of the prohibitory and protective system were introduced into
tlic law, first by Mr. Wallace [1823], and afterwards and principally by
Mr. Huskisson [1823-27]. Still it continued to contain some prohibitions
ami a very great number of prohibitory rates of duty; and no approxi-
mation to unity of principle was discernible in its structure as a whole.
In 18-12 it was attempted to make an approach to the following rules:


(1). The removal of prohibitions. (2). The reduction of duties on manu-
factured articles, and of protective duties generally, to an average of 20
per cent, ad valorem. (3). On partially manufactured articles to rates
not exceeding 10 per cent. (4). On raw materials to rates not exceeding
5 per cent. The duties were then reduced on about 660 articles."

The tariffs of 1845-6 still further reduced duties, leaving those on silk
at 15 percent.; on made-up fabrics of other material, 10 per cent.; not
made-up, free. The corn laws were finally repealed in 1849, and the dis-
crimination in favor of colonial sugar abolished in 1851. The tariff of
1S53 fixed 10 per cent, as the maximum on all manufactures except ,<ilk,
and abolished various unproductive duties. It substituted specific for
ad valorem rates. The French Treaty of 1860 abolished the duties on
French manufactures. The chief changes since 1853 have been the re-
moval or reduction of revenue duties on articles in general use, — tea,
sugar, and the like. All these tariffs admit the principle of discrimina-
tion in favor of home industry.

§ 282. With the very partial exception of France (§ 274),
no continental people has followed English example. " There
is no doubt," says The (London) Economist, "that Free Trade
is one of the most unpopular things in practice in the world."
It has not enabled England to hold the position of industrial
superiority that she once did. " We have now," says a Free
Trade authority, " many rivals, where thirty or forty years ago
we had none ; we formerly supplied nations, which now partially
or entirely manufacture for themselves ; we formerly had the
monopoly of many markets, where we are now met and under-
sold by young competitors. To several quarters we now send
only that portion of their whole demand, which our rivals are
at present unable to supply. A far larger proportion of our
production now than formerly is exported to distant and unpro-
ducing countries, ... to our own colonies and our remote pos-
sessions. More, relatively, is sent to Africa and America, and
less to Europe. Countries which we formerly supplied with the
finished article, now take from us only the half-finished article
or the raw material. Austria meets us in Italy; Switzerland
and Germany meet us in America ; the United States meet us
in Brazil and China. We formerly sent yarn to Russia ; we now
send cotton- wool ; we sent plain and printed calicos to Germany,


we now send mainly the yarn for making them. All these
countries produce more cheaply than we do, — but as yet they
are not producing enough; we therefore supplement them . . .
Henceforth our manufacturing industry can increase only, not
by underselling or successfully competing with our rivals, but by
the demand of the world increasing faster than our rivals can
supply. This is . . . preeminently the case with our chief
manufacture, the cotton." ( The North British Review, 1852.)
Be it noted that these rivals who now compete on equal terms
with England in the markets foreign to both, are nations who
first refused to compete with her in their own home markets.
They developed under the shelter of protective tariffs the skill
and the capital, which have enabled them to emulate her as a
producing and an exporting nation.

§ 283. Even in the English home market the competition of
foreign manufacturers has been keen and effective. Many minor
branches of trade, which cannot secure a voice in Parliament
and some sort of indirect protection, have been nearly ruined.
For instance, the cheap labor of Norway and Belgium and the
access to abundance of timber, have enabled those countries to
export doors and window-frames at prices with which English
house-carpenters cannot compete, and great numbers of them
have been obliged to emigrate. The larger industries have not
escaped. The abolition of duties on French manufactures in
1860 simply destroyed the extensive manufactures of silk in
Coventry and Macclesfield, and sent hosts of their workmen to
the poor-house. The importation of French silks was quadrupled.
English statesmen looked on, suppressing all national instincts
for the sake of a theory, and exhorted the silk-weavers to im-
prove their machines and processes, or else take to something
else. Formerly Coventry and Macclesfield competed with Lyons
for the American market. Now the competition is only between
the French and the American silks. So in less degree of the
iron trade, the paper trade, and even the cotton trade. Thirty
Prussian locomotives are running on one English railway, and the
massive girders of the new St. Thomas's Hospital, under the very


windows of the Houses of Parliament, were forged, framed and
fitted in Belgium, after a free and open competition in which a
dozen English manufacturers joined. Englishmen ask why is this,
and find the answer : The foreign workman outdoes the English
in effectiveness, because he is better trained and educated, and the
natural organization of labor has been carried almost to perfection.
The Continental states do not leave everything to the scramble of
free competition ; they have no faith in the Laisscz /aire maxim.
They make temporary sacrifices, such as the outlay on popular
education, both directly to schools and teachers, and indirectly
by protective tariffs, and reap benefits manifold.

See an article on " Continental Iron Works Supplying English Mar-
kets,"' copied into LitteU's Living Age for May 23d, 1868, from The London
Review. The writer tells this story :

"An English manufacturer met a friend the other day in London.
'What are you doing here?' he said. The other told him in confidence
that he was waiting to know the result of a competition for a large
quantity of work. ' I fully expect the order/ he said, ' for I have tendered
at a price by which we shall lose, merely to keep the works open.' The
other asked if he had any objection to exchange figures with him, as all
the tenders were in, and he had himself tendered for a Belgian firm. The
Englishman named his price. ' You may go home then !' said the other.
' I am fifteen shillings a ton below you, and it will pay our firm very well
at that price.'"

In 1874, when the iron trade at home was especially depressed by the
sudden cessation of the demand in many parts of the world, following
the panic of 1873, the English government sent out a commission to
inquire upon what terms and of what quality Belgian iron, especially
ship-plates, and bars and sheets used in ship-building, could be imported
for the Admiralty. They did so because they found that Belgian iron in
general could be had at 10s. to 20s. a ton cheaper in London than Eng-
lish could ; and because this particular class of iron was monopolized by
a few firms, and cost £10 a ton more than it would in Belgium. On free
trade principles, the government was perfectly right. " Buy where you can
buy the cheapest," is the first maxim for governments and for peoples,
laid down by their English exponents. But there is a difference between
" your ox " and '•' my bull." The English correspondent of an American
paper tells us how Englishmen took the news of this commission : —

" So far as I can ascertain little sympathy dwells in the English heart
towards the commission. Pecuniary advantages when opposed to national
advantages must ever be ousted. And I think, with many others, that
the present is a question wherein the former would operate antago-


nistically towards the latter. If government specifications were distrib-
uted exclusively amongst our foreign competitors, they and their workmen
would proportionately swell in opulence and manufacturing supremacy
in the departments embraced, as ours descended. Further, it is regarded
as mo^t significant that a Tory government should have ventured even
upon a preliminary investigation of the policy of going out of the country
for government iron. We are now thirty years from 1844. What would
have been thought of the prophet who should have committed himself to
the prophecy that in 1874 Mr. Disraeli would seriously think of buying
foreign iron for our own ships of war ? To buy foreign bread for our own
mouths was considered bad enough, but to buy abroad our very bulwarks
would have been thought absolute treason."

§ 284. Will England persist? Possibly she will. Her
middle classes, at least, retain their faith in the sacredness, the
almost divinity of free competition, and their belief that the
sphere and duties of government extend no farther than to keep-
ing each man's hands off his neighbor's throat and pocket. With
Mr. Gladstone, they pity the benighted protectionists abroad, as
a zealous Christian pities the heathen. " I venture," he says
in 1871, "that there is not the prevalence of enlightened views
upon the subject that we desire in America; although it has a
strong free trade party, yet the prevalence of these opinions is
by no means assured. In our own colonies — I say it with deep
regret — in our own colonics there are very strong and consider-
able tendencies towards the establishment of what we call the
exploded system of protection. I also must say, and it is with
much pain, that the course of affairs in France is very different
from that which we wish it to be." They still exult in the con-
sciousness that they, and they alone, have found the key to all
industrial problems, and lament the invincible ignorance of
political economy that prevails iu the United States (Spectator,
l v 7 1 | and other protectionist countries. As this class gives us
pretty nearly all the English literature of our days, it is the
common impression that there is no dissent from its teachings.

•• It would -'-'in :i< though we freetraders had become nearly as bigoted
in favor of free trade as our former opponents were in favor of protection.
Just as they used to say, ' We are right : Why argue the question?' so
now, in the face of the support of protection by all the greatest minds in
America, all the first statesmen of the Australians, we tell the New Eng-


land and the Australian politicians that ' We will not discuss protection
with them, because there can be no two minds about it among men of in-
telligence and education. We will hear no defence of national lunacy,'
we say. If, putting aside our prejudices, we consent to argue with an
Australian or American protectionist, we find ourselves in difficulties. As
far as we in our island are concerned it (i. e. free trade) is so manifestly
to the pocket interest of almost all of us, and at the same time on account
of the minuteness of our territory, that for Britain there can be no danger
of a deliberate relapse into protection." — -Dilke's Greater Britain.

§ 285. But the Reform Bill carried by Mr. Disraeli in 1868,
by establishing household suffrage, has effected a second trans-
fer of power in England, to wit: from the middle to the lower
classes. The latter gave no hearty support to the great agita-
tion for the abolition of the corn laws. Ebenezer Elliott, the
poet of that struggle, wrote in 18-19, " It is remarkable that
free trade has been carried by the middle classes, not only with-
out the assistance of the working classes, but in spite of their
opposition." Senior expressed his fear that if the extension of
representative government should increase the power of public
opinion over the policy of nations, " commerce may not long be
enabled to retain even that degree of freedom which she now
enjoys." Chalmers says : " This is a subject on which the popu-
lar and philosophic miuds are not at all in harmony," and ex-
presses the same fear as Senior does, as to what would result
from " the very admission into Parliament of so large an influ-
ence from the will of the humbler classes." Kingsley speaks of
the artisans of the great cities as "sneering and growling at Mr.
Cobden's harangue — ' Cheap bread! curse him, he means cheap
wages !' "

§ 286. What direction will this new political element, as it
gradually makes itself felt in Parliament, give to legislation,
especially as regards economical matters? English students of
its tendencies say that (1) it will be intensely Nationalist. It will
insist on the nation having a foreign policy of its own ; it will
fight when its blood is up, whether Manchester suffers or not.
It will look at matters through English spectacles, not cosmopo-
litan ones, and trust more to national instincts and impulses
than to fine-spun theories. A Parliament, then, that really


represented this class would not sit with folded hands and see
Macclesfields and Coventrys go to ruin, because somebody had
made a book argument about free trade that was thought unan-
swerable. (2) The theory of government held by this class is
very different from the Laissez /aire notion of the class just
above it. It bas not been the vigorous, strong, prosperous part
of society that chiefly wanted the state to get out of its way.
Bather it has been in great need of a helping band from the
constituted authorities. The state (apart from the policeman,
to whose functions the " let alone " school would reduce govern-
ment) has mostly been the workingman's best friend and pro-
tector. He has no scruples and no grudges about giving it
pretty large scope of action. If any one will make it pretty
clear to him that the drift of legislation can help him to more
work and better pay, he will look for that help. (3) Being
themselves very directly a producing class, they are not so
likely to see the axiomatic force of the free trade maxims :
" Every man's interest as a consumer is the interest of society ;
every man's interest as a producer is the interest of a class.'
Let all legislation be for the good of the consumer, because his
interest always represents the interests of society and the good
of the whole nation."

These new voters are already learning to put the saddle on
the right horse, and to urge upon their rulers the wis-
dom of investigating and revising the commercial policy
of the country. We read of meetings of London work-
iiiirnien "to take into consideration the depression of trade and
the general want of employment consequent on the importation
of manufactured goods," in which free trade is denounced as
ruinous, the win- nostrum of a general emigration is scouted as
unpatriotic, and the example of America held up for English
imitation. In 1869 an association was formed called "The
Revivers," with a view to a general agitation of the question.

Sir John Barnard Bylcs, since 1858 Judge of the Court of Com-
mon Pleas, and author of standard law treatises, is one of the old line
of Protectionists who has never given up the case. Daniel Grant, in his
ihmn Politics (1S70), and Sir Edward Sullivan, in his Protection to
Native Industry (1870), takes the ground that English free trade is a


blunder, since other nations will not reciprocate. The latter says: "We
are told that the battle of free trade was fought aud won twenty years
ago, and that it is ridiculous, an insult to common sense, to argue it over
again. No doubt the battle was fought and gained, but it was fought
under false colors, and with a totally different class to that which is now

clamoring for its modification Then all was theory ; now we have

the light of practice and experience to instruct us The battle

was fought twenty years ago with the Tory party, with the land-owners.
Now it must be fought over again with the working classes."

" Free Traders affect to be surprised at this stupid agitation of the
working classes," but " the re-establishment of protection became a cer-
tainty when the operative classes gained political power."

§ 287. The colonies who form part of the British empire
are as slow to adopt the English theory as are industrial nations
nearer home. Canada, for instance, imposes a " revenue tariff"
upon all foreign manufactures, which decidedly hampers English
trade, and does in a weak, half-hearted way foster some of the
ruder industries. There is a strong Protectionist minority in
Canada, represented by the " Association for the Promotion of
Canadian Industry." But it is still true that, as Mr. Gait,
their Finance Minister, told England in 1859, "the fiscal policy
of Canada has invariably been governed by the amount of reve-
nue required. It is no doubt true that a large and influential
party exists who advocate a protective policy; but this policy
has not been adopted by either the government or the legisla

Online LibraryRobert Ellis ThompsonSocial science and national economy → online text (page 27 of 38)