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implied admission, it is the nation on one side and the men of acres on the other; that speaks any number of whole volumes in a baker's dozen of words; and, God save the mark! it is on a question of supplies for the national oven !
Well, in a fight like this we must be content to measure swords or break a lance with whomsoever comes. The matter at stake is in its nature ordinary-a mixed matter of truths or facts, and of axioms or principles. At this moment we see before us an imposing array of facts, or, at least, of figures. They look endless, but it is by a device had recourse to on the boards of theatres, where, by the continuous circulation of a small number of seeming soldiers around a pasteboard pillar, a large host is made to impose itself upon the spectators who really fill the house. The facts, whether factitious or no, are, from the trick of iteration, a great deal less numerous than in semblance they appear; and when, by keen and critical inspection, reduced to the actual number, on closer examination they are found to be facts of different sorts and in different degrees. A few, indeed, are facts about which there can be no contest, whatever may be their amount of force in argument and demonstration. A second class are but half facts, which, severed from their other moieties, are mere distortions. The remainder have no just claim to be received as facts at all; but, not with needless incivility to stigmatize them as lies, falsehoods, or even fibs, are, nevertheless, loose assertions, figments of the fancy, hallucinations of a dyspeptic stomach and a disordered brain. If called upon for proof of these distinctions, I content myself for the present with asking what we are to denominate such phrases as these:- Querulous entreaties for better terms only afford more convincing evidence of our folly.' marked depreciation in the quality of English goods.' "The moral stagnation of the masses.' "Throughout the whole of America and France every class, rich and poor, statesmen and pressmen, producers and consumers, are absolutely unanimous in upholding Protection.'
If Cicero's wish were possible, that “every man should have written on his brow what he really thought of the affairs of the State,” the words Free Trade would now appear on the foreheads of but very few of the electors of England. The world still persists in regarding them (the principles of Cobden) as nonsense.' 'I doubt whether during the whole of the present generation a single convert has joined the Free-trade faith.' And yet, strange to say, 'sophisms have been preferred to experience, theories to facts, and paradoxes to common sense.' "The most sanguine must allow there is something
. rotten in the state of England. The agricultural interest is on the verge of ruin, and the manufacturing interest is in a condition that alarms all engaged in it.' France imposes tariffs of from fifteen to fifty per cent. on English goods; but that is not a war of tariffs—
oh! dear, no-it is only a war of tariffs when, in self-defence, England imposes duties on French goods. “Bradford is nearly ruined, and both manufacturers and operatives are emigrating to America.' With the exception of the bankers, the brokers, the brewers, the distillers, and the publicans, and the importers of foreign goods, every class in the community is either losing money or working without profit.' With perfect confidence I leave it to the discriminating judgment of every intelligent hearer or reader to determine to which of the three categories just defined these bold statements belong. If I mistake not (and they all are but samples), the facts will be found scarce, the half-truths in excess, and the airy nothings in a majority.
But, while dwelling in the region of imagination and invention, this romantic writer occasionally descends to the terminology, if not to the logic, of the demonstrator. “There is no escape,' quoth he, * from the two horns of the dilemma-Protection or emigration. Which will the operative class of Great Britain select ? Will they protect their labour and their industries, as their fellow-workers all over the world have done, and remain at home? Or will they quit the land of what is falsely called Free Trade for the land of what is actually and really Fair Trade?' Now, in the first place, why is the decisive issue referred to a set of dolts, who, according to the questioner, do not think for themselves as they do in France and America ?' In the next place, how came he to forget that he was dealing, on the one hand, with the greatest nation and country in the Old World, and the thinly-peopled, while illimitable, country of the New; and, on the other hand, to repeat his own second-hand sneer, with a redundant population hemmed in by the melancholy ocean?' But, however, I will not shrink from frankly answering his main inquiry; and it will be seen, as I do so, whether or not my fellow-operatives think I have answered him discreetly. My answer, then, is, that they will do in the future as they have done in the past : a part of them will stay at home to denounce and resist the idea of Protection, and a part of them will go abroad-I suppose, to participate in that good fortune which, according to this gentleman, exists everywhere but here, and also to make a little elbowroom for those who, like Bonaparte in St. Helena, remain prisoners to the melancholy ocean.' If, however, we are so redundant' and so hemmed in,' what wonder that, while emigration flows from every
other shore to the shores of the Atlantic, ' not one ever comes to England ?' Were the fact so, whereas it seldom is, when this imaginative writer fancies himself in the groundward region of fact, surely the reason of it was plain even to groundling understandings. Do not our lords and squires persist in surrounding themselves with a sanitary cord of manifold twist of many miles breadth, as if they dreaded contact with the brutish herd who do not think for themselves ?' And yet, hemmed in as these melancholy creatures are by waters not more melancholy than themselves, and buddling together as they do in those lugubrious towns which are their only refuge, it is remarkable what herds of Italian organ-grinders, and Savoyards with their monkeys, squeeze in amongst us; how in London there are almost as many German bread or sugar bakers and counting-house clerks as there are native Britons in these pursuits. In short, one meets almost daily with as many nationalities in this metropolis as were assembled in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. In good sooth, were the owners (at present) of entailed estates as careful to live within their incomes as they are to seclude themselves within their overgrown domains, they would be able to let their farms at rents on which occupiers might live in comfort and our labourers be not quite slaves, and might learn at length to put their deer parks under the useful plough, and wildernesses, too long left desolate and waste, might, as the fervid prophet has it, be tilled, and become like the garden of Eden!'
But let the farmers know who are really, and not in mere pretence, their friends. I ask my fellow-operatives whether they do not sympathise with the tillers of the soil, and their griefs and disappointments ? I am sure they do, and so do all honest and unselfish Englishmen of every class. Mr. Bright, whom this gentleman rather grudgingly quotes, did so when he connected the low state of our home trade with a succession of bad harvests, and fairly admitted that, in the Apostle's beautiful words, there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another; and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, and one member be honoured (or do well), all the members rejoice with it. Such language as this (carrying the stamp of its divinity upon the face of it) bears out the words of the first Free-traders fiveand-thirty years ago, when, as this gentleman cynically calls to mind, they claimed to be doing ‘God's work. What! he in effect exclaims, God's work to destroy the landowner?' Well, no; but let the landowner take heed to himself, lest another warning in sacred words prove as applicable to him as it was to the people to whom it was first addressed, 0 Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself!'
ild it be thought that I have paid over-much attention to this paper, which takes the lead in the August number of the Nineteenth Century, my answer is, that it not merely occupies the first place in this well-known publication, but its appearance has been timed to be simultaneous with the first announcement of the hatching of the egg that was laid in the private meeting at the Westminster Palace Hotel, and is distinctly the first exposition of the title given to the resulting chick. Its name in the politico-economical ornithology is “The National
Fair Trade League,' and fair trade is precisely the single string on which Sir Edward Sullivan, like a Paganini Redivivus, pursues his one theme with numberless variations.
But I must now focalise these remarks by way of conclusion. It is a foul abuse of language to attempt to hide Protection and dear bread under the cloak of fair trade.' We cannot, all at once and everywhere, have a free and unshackled exchange between the various products of the earth and the fruits of man's ingenuity, skill, and labour. But we can continue to set the nations a good example, and, by degrees, get all others into the same mind with ourselves. So let us neither shrink nor flinch but endure to the end. The other day (August 22, 1881) the English Commissioners were to have joined their French colleagues in Paris for the renewal of negotiations with a view to the conclusion of a fresh Treaty of Commerce between the two countries. Unfortunately, the Government of the Republic
, took an attitude which obliged our own to call a halt. That advised pause was not what our good neighbours expected. Their calculation seems to have been that any sort of agreement would have been accepted rather than the prejudicial tariff arranged to take effect on the 8th of November. Thus surprised, the French mind is waking up, and will perhaps find its way to the unequivocal adoption of conditions quite equal to those for which Richard Cobden successfully negotiated under the Empire. But if the interests on both sides, perilled by delay, are to be in any good measure saved, what France does she must do quickly. If, however, we have some reason for misgivings as to French tactics, we have none for mistrust when we look at home. Our fair traders ' start with something not either truth or fairness in their right hand. When did John Bright or any other man promise that the very first step in Free Trade between our country and others should control the changefulness of our island seasons, or safeguard our manufacturers and merchants from every cause of fluctuation and depression ?
Pray, how would the cessation of American and other foreign corn from freely flowing into British ports better our position as a people? What would their surplus of wheat be worth to the growers upon whose hands it would then be thrown back? “Ay, but the rents of our landowners would be improved.' Would they? That result would be among the most transitory of things, and their security as a class would be as fleeting. It seems to me that one year's return to the dark ages of our fathers would cause the many millions of taxpayers to rise up in dimensions that would terrify the rest out of their remaining wits.
These gentlemen would be singing on the verge of a beetling precipice were they to succeed in their desperate endeavour to get rid, without substitute, of a treaty which will have lasted one-andVol. X.-No. 55.
twenty years with mutual satisfaction to the parties concerned; and they must not flatter themselves that those above would escape with life and limb under the tumble down. It is a ground of hope for us all that France has quite as much at stake as ourselves. There are sound political economists, if not over-many Free Traders, across the Straits, and they may save the mere gamesters in desperate chances from plunging into gross blunders; while such, after all, is the progress of ideas in countries of Europe once involved in thick darkness, that, it may be, both the Iberian and Italian peninsulas might be among the first to recoup our temporary loss, at the same time that Spain, Portugal, and Italy did each a good thing for themselves, as every one of them is by nature well capable of; and perhaps the only way for some French manufacturers, and for such politicians as do their bidding, to see things in their true light, is the old way of adverse experience. France will gain an experience of restricted commerce, which has hardly been within her reach before.
But I must not entangle myself in the web of fiscal argument, which mystifies us plain people, and I leave the French question in the hope that, perhaps, as one result of the elections of August 21, the interrupted negotiations may be renewed under happier auspices. What, meanwhile, are the home facts? First of all, a number of bad harvests, almost unexampled in our history, causing us, however, to ask each other, What in the world should we have done but for cheap bread made of excellent and abundant foreign flour ? If we extend our view to our own colonies, do we not find Victoria backsliding with Protection, while New South Wales, its next-door neighbour, makes good progress under Free Trade? The member for Preston, Mr. Ecroyd, repudiates as false accusations Retaliation and
Protection, yet it is part of his scheme to put a ten per cent. duty on imports of food from any country that will not accept his ideas of Fair Trade.' It is one consolation that these gentlemen themselves hardly seem to understand each other, and it is another to compare the division lists on Mr Ritchie's motion; the former will not for ever accept the poor privilege of grumbling at foreign competition as a sufficient solace under high rents, still less will working men cheer our lords and squires in their efforts to get rid of income and property tax by imposing a heavy duty upon the food of the people. They will much rather take measures for enlightening the minds of their rustic brethren preparatory to the extension of the county franchise. The announced national convention of the industrial classes' in town and country will not fail to set these matters in order. Meanwhile Mr. Herbert Gladstone's re-election for Leeds bas afforded the opportunity for a point-blank denial, on authority higher, though not better informed, than his own, that our commerce is widening and that we are living upon our capital, as some have had the daring to affirm. With this averment, I venture to associate the