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former effects had ceased to exist, the direct action of the principle. It can be of no use to shut our eyes to the possibility that free trade is the cause of manufacturing depression and the labourers' distress. It is illogical to argue that because free trade produced prosperity at first, that it must therefore continue to do so. "We must treat the problem in a comprehensive fashion, and leave its partial treatment to be undertaken by the abstract free-traders, who are prejudiced in the belief that the free-trade principle, on account of its sacred character,1 is omnipotent. We must cast aside the spirit of partisanship. The free-traders, there is no doubt of it, for it formed a part of Cobden's ill-assorted design, and he acknowledged it, have ulterior ends.2 What these ends are, matters little to a distrustful, unemployed, and ill-fed people. Ask the free-traders why the people are distrustful, why they are not employed, why, too, tbey are ill - fed? They afford specious answers. They appeal to some distant period when the lot of the labouring man is to reach the "ideal" they have depicted to him. Thus may it be asserted that they refuse to enter into the rational treatment of the question. They rest contented, after they have raised the free-trade principle to that nothingness "an axiom." And what information they can derive from
1 Cobden, p. 187. How any one principle in economy can be more sacred than another, or be "sacred " at all, is beyond our comprehension! But compare John Bright on this point, at p. 456 of his Speeches: "Free trade, though not given amid the thunders of Sinai, is not less the commandment of God, and not less intended to promote and secure the happiness of men."
2 Cobden stated that many supported free trade simply on account of its "moral" and "social" bearings.
such a procedure they may be pleased to retain. But there are slight differences, perhaps practical ones, between an axiom of mathematics, which is an abstract science, and the assumed axiom of free trade, which refers to a concrete one. Is it their aim to discuss the problems of economy from the abstract point of view? Then they may be assured that they are never, at any particular time, dealing with what is going on about them; and that, first of all, they assume that affairs will take a particular course, and argue from those positions which they have taken up, and which they are foolish enough to suppose will remain as eternally fixed in nature as they are in their own imaginations.1 But those very positions, which once upon a time may have been sound ones, have in course of time become very materially altered. The ideal economists believe that they are still the centres round which the principles guiding our trade revolve. It is true the principles are still revolving round that centre; but the positions have long since been abandoned by those who take a practical part in the conduct of our trade. The manufacturers will find that the eternal principle is working their ruin. Let us point out to the reader the tendency at the present day in this country to invest capital abroad. The ideal economists will discover— but too late, perhaps, as all those must do who suppose that affairs are to be governed by abstract ideas, instead of dealing with their actual state as in practical legislation—that their principles still operate, but that, so
1 We inquire, where are those "dear" markets in which our merchants are always to sell? We were told we should buy in a cheap market. Are all our markets now as cheap as they were in 1846?
far as the country for whose benefit they were framed is concerned, they are affecting passive1 and not active surroundings. But we go further, and tell the ideal political economists that their boasted axioms are nothing but their own pretentious assumptions, the creatures of a frame of mind evolved out of a network of hypotheses to which the then condition of our manufactures afforded its countenance, but which by no possibility of means could remain true for all time, unless "surrounding conditions " continued the same.
It is a concession, however, on the part of free-traders to allow their protectionist opponents the merit of having, in the course of a rigid analysis, summoned out of obscurity the various influences which created their unparalleled prosperity. But the proper influence of free trade must be estimated. The attempt must be made to portray what would have been the combined results of a normal currency, the railway system, and the gold discoveries, on the progress of our commerce. We have already called attention to one element in the composition of that unparalleled prosperity—an artificial demand. We have already explained how it interfered with the existence of a normal railway rate. And the reasons are gradually accumulating to prove the justice of restating the case of the old protectionists. To begin with, there is Cobden's false theory as to the origin of rent.2 To proceed, there are all those predictions of the freetraders which, alas! remain unfulfilled. But, as if free trade could not exist without the maximum of error,
1 As regards agriculture and the other industries which have been depressed by free trade.
2 On this he founded his unjust charges against the landlords.
there is the twofold error into which the original supporters of the system fell; an error which was entertained by their successors, who succeeded in incorporating the principle among the tenets of a party. Else, why was free - trade prosperity unparalleled? Why were the people cajoled into supporting the Eadicals because of free-trade prosperity, if the Eadical leaders knew in their hearts that all that prosperity was not due to the principle of free trade? Are we to suppose that those leaders were base enough to hoodwink the electorate into the belief that free trade was the sole cause of prosperity, knowing all the time that such was a false statement, in order that they might promote those other reforms which, if accomplished and successful, would change a false for a sound basis of popular support?
But the error is admitted — to the extent that all prosperity was erroneously ascribed to free trade. The other part of the twofold error, the ascription of direct action to free trade in the causation of prosperity, we have never seen disputed. Consequently, what the abstract free-traders have to show—and perhaps all the more difficulty will be experienced by them when they are made to descend from their lofty generalities, their universal propositions, and certain collateral issues— what they have to show is, "How did the principle of free trade effect that proportion of the unparalleled prosperity which every one, free-trader and protectionist alike, agree to accredit it with?" The problem now is limited to the answering of a very simple question. But this "particular" feature of the argument we make no doubt will be avoided by free-trade theorists. It intrenches upon the character of their discussions. So