of foreign bounties, or of prohibitive duties maintained against them by the very nations from whom they buy their food. They care little for plausible arguments, or subtle theories of trade or exchange. What they demand is very plain and simple :

1. Free access for the sale of their own productions to foreign countries whose manufactures are freely admitted here.

2. The neutralisation of foreign bounties by countervailing duties which shall simply put the amount of them into our exchequer.

3. That effectual means be taken to transfer the growing of our food from those who will not purchase our manufactures in exchange to those who will.

4. That to accomplish this, and to give us the power to safeguard the interests of labour under all future circumstances, the empire be consolidated commercially, and as far as possible politically.

If these ends could have been attained without the imposition of any import duties, they would have greatly preferred it so. Since that cannot be, they desire the smallest duties that will effectually accomplish the work. In every case their object is free, fair, and equal competition (up to the limits imposed by a due regard for health and mental and moral well-being)—and therefore increased freedom of exchange : they have no love for Protection, whether practised in their favour or against them.

In this view they have patiently, perhaps too long, tried negotiation, persuasion, generous example, even when it was only met by ever-increasing exclusion on the other side. They now see the great food-growing nations determined to manufacture for themselves, even if duties of 50, 60, or 80 per cent. are needed to keep out English goods, till England, so long magnanimous and forbearing, stands at last like a lion at bay. And now the only possible answer is rising to their lips, “We have long and sincerely desired freedom of exchange with you

for mutual advantage, but we cannot buy if you will not allow us to sell. We still believe as firmly as ever that free trade is best for all; but, since you refuse it, we will neither be driven to starvation nor to emigration. We can find within our own Empire the freedom of exchange which you deny us; we can there grow our own food without difficulty, since you will have it so; and we need not disturb ourselves much in bringing about that result; a small differential duty will do the work effectually and quickly.'

This is not the language of Protectionism, but I am sure it expresses

the conviction and resolution of a large and rapidly increasing proportion of the people of this country. No doubt there are some politicians, and perhaps some small bodies of workmen, who desire Protection, and who support the Fair Trade movement with that ulterior purpose; their co-operation, though of course welcome, is sometimes embarrassing, as their advocacy of Protection is often attributed to Fair Traders, evidently with the purpose of confusing the issue before the public.

But no Fair Trader needs to sanction Protectionism; and I believe the timely adoption of the Fair Trade policy would not only satisfy the growing national feeling, but would also establish free trade as the future system of this vast empire, whose 300,000,000 of people would thus realise those benefits of which foreign protectionism now so largely deprives them.

Should the nation, however, drift on passively under the present system, ridiculously miscalled Free Trade, the end will assuredly be the complete establishment of Protectionism, not only in foreign nations and in all our dependencies, but also in these islands.

For it may be confidently predicted that our agricultural labourers, if they should gain the elective franchise, will not play the part assigned to them by the Birmingham (let us no longer say Manchester) school of politicians. They will be quick enough to perceive that the pressure of foreign competition, in spite of all reforms of land tenure, is certain to cause an extensive conversion of arable into grass land, and a terrible displacement of agricultural labour and all dependent trades and handicrafts. All bodies of workmen are naturally more alarmed at the narrowing of their own employment, and consequent decline in the rate of wages, than at any moderate advance in the price of the commodities they are engaged in producing, whether food, clothing, or furniture. The enfranchised labourers will therefore differ remarkably from the rest of mankind, if they do not cry out loudly for such protection of their own industry as may save them from the dreaded doom of banishment.

And the workmen engaged in manufactures will be led, by force of circumstances, to the same conclusion. Proud and self-reliant, they have put forth their energy and skill to the utmost to cope with foreign tariffs and foreign bounties. But an end will come to this, for they are fighting against an unlimited force, since tariffs and bounties can be raised against them till they are crushed.

Nor is this all. During the past forty years-aided by the humane and generous sentiment of the country—they have gained, step by step, a regulation of the hours and conditions of labour, which they esteem a priceless benefit. No doubt these restrictions have in some degree increased the cost of production; but on this point the deliberate and repeated verdict of the nation through its legislature has been, We will not put a difference of a quarter of a farthing a yard in the cost of calicoes, or half a farthing in the cost of woollens, in the balance against the health and happiness of the workers.'

But foreign nations have not followed our example in this matter, any more than in the matter of free trade; and they now meet us in our home market with manufactures of various kinds cheapened by the more rapid wearing out of the lives of the workers.


We know not to what this may grow, or how far, outside the British Empire, nests of slavish or half-slavish labourers may be kept up in future, the competition of whose productions may exercise a depressing influence on our own industrial population. But a united empire could put down (as by Factory Acts in India, for example) all such inhuman competition within its borders—and by very small import duties could prevent such external competition from lowering its own civilisation and well-being. And if it be said, as it may with truth, that this would not help our industries in the open competition of neutral markets, it may be replied that the very basis of the Fair Trade movement is the conviction that the British Empire presents an area, in extent and variety of productions, far more than ample (if wisely developed) to afford scope for all the trade that could be conducted by the people of these islands, on the extreme supposition that all the rest of the world became hopelessly protectionist.

may soon appear quite clear to our working classes, therefore, that either a United Empire with regulated labour and freedom of exchange within itself—or, failing that, a system of absolute Protection at all risks against the danger of competition with unregulated external labour, are the only alternatives of the future; indeed, this is already seen by not a few able and thoughtful working-men.

But apart from any special consideration of the interests of this or that industry, we see that democracies are singularly proud of empire-witness those of the United States and France. Men like to feel that they belong to a great and essentially self-supporting commonwealth, whose power and resources enable it to modify, in one way or other, the severity of competition within its borders, and to command the respect of the world by its ever youthful strength and capacity of development. This feeling, which in France expresses itself in a thirst for military glory, takes in America a form more in harmony with the Anglo-Saxon character—that of exultation in the vastness of the resources of the Republic, and of its future industrial and commercial greatness. It is Conservatism of the best kind, the national pride of a free and self-governing people. And, as might have been foreseen, it is rapidly developing in the mind and heart of the enfranchised British workman: our Empire is to him no longer that of an aristocracy or a plutocracy-of a governing class who never consulted him, and with whom he had little or no concern ; it is today his own and his children's,—their glory—their secure field of enterprise—their inheritance through future ages.

Here, then, is a new political force of the highest order, and neither of our great parties apparently knows what to make of it. The Liberal party has indeed been quite in haste to declare that it will have nothing to do with it, now or henceforth. With petty quibbles and endless repetition of worn-out commonplaces which evade the present issues, with unsympathetic and often ignorant dogmatism, with arrogance, and even with vulgar insolence, Liberalism has eagerly answered these aspirations before it heard them. Perhaps it is better so: for its past depreciation of our Colonies, its objection to any looking at the Empire as a unity, its bitterly expressed hatred of an imperial policy,' its way of regarding foreigners as always in the right and England as always in the wrong, its readiness to accept the relative decline of this country and future greatness of America, and, not less, the coldness or active opposition offered in past years by some of its leading men to the whole beneficont course of factory legislation-all prove that this great cause of the people could, under no circumstances, have been safe in the hands of the Liberal party.

And yet I trust and believe that it will not be taken up precipitately by the Conservative leaders, nor ever for mere party ends: they have practised hitherto a wise reserve ; let them continue it till the movement has been cleared by the full discussion of points which are yet imperfectly understood by many—and till the growth of popular feeling shall have declared itself in terms which cannot be mistaken.

But the duty to watch and obey this new force, and to lead it to victory, is unquestionably theirs; for it is no less truly conservative than democratic. Wherever it moves in the heart of a working-man, it deepens his love of country, his loyalty to his sovereign as the bond of union with all his fellow-citizens, and his unselfish desire that his own prosperity may never be enjoyed at the expense of adversity or suffering on the part of any of them. It makes him feel a new cheerfulness and courage in his daily labour-a new joy as he looks into the faces of his children—a new confidence in that unseen future of which they are the heirs.

To understand and give effect to these sentiments is the high duty of Conservative statesmen. I know not what might be the result to our political parties—for these questions are above all party lines, and their successful treatment would sweeten political feeling in England, by fixing men's minds on great and common interests ; but I know, and am sure, that the accomplishment of this great work would knit closer the hearts of all Englishmen to one another for ages to come, and establish the unity of an Empire mighty to bless and safeguard its own industrious people, and to help forward the peace and civilisation of the world.




It is an old saying that if the causes and extent of an evil are known, it is half cured. Certainly when the causes and extent of the present depression in trade are thoroughly understood and properly appreciated, if the depression does not disappear, the fallacies of the past which are being furbished up and hawked about as remedies will be exploded. That trade has been and is still far from brisk in many branches is undeniable. For five years decreasing returns and falling prices were the order of the day. During the last eighteen months the condition of things has improved, but the export returns are still below those of the prosperous times of 1872–4. Prices are still low and profits meagre. What is the cause of it? Is England being beaten in the markets of the world ? Are other nations supplying themselves and others too, while we go on from bad to worse and stand by and see them do it? Or, are we holding our own in the struggle for commercial supremacy, and is there some other explanation of the depression under which we are suffering ?

A brief statement of facts will facilitate a due appreciation of the truth. The following is the total amount of our exports each year during the last fifteen years :1866 £238,905,682

1874 .

£297,650,464 1867 225,802,529


281,612,323 1868 227,778,454


256,776,602 1869 237,015,052


252,346,020 1870 244,080,577


245,483,858 1871 283,574,700


248,783,364 1872 314,588,834


286,414,466 1873

311,004,765 It will be seen that the tide has turned ; that our exports last year have only been exceeded in value in three previous years, and those the three most prosperous years the country has ever known, viz. 1872-4. The prosperity of 1871-4 was special, and to some extent unhealthy, and the comparative stagnation which followed was the relapse resulting from it. The demand for goods in those years was great everywhere, and speculation ran rife and increased it.

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