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in this double and blindfolded fashion—to create a crisis, in order that justice may be unequally dealt out, and that their popularity may be maintained. But in such an instance it is appalling to discern the heavy sacrifices that are made. And finally these sacrifices are felt by the general public. Of two interests, both lose something when they succeed in carrying a scheme which affects them but only partially. The loss may be slight; it may be nothing more than the abrogation of self-respect. But it does not end there; it has its consequences upon subsequent occasions and after-ages. Thus is the political factor driven to consider large questions not from a comprehensive view, nor in themselves, but as questions from which is to be derived some addition to his selfishness. For this self-interest becomes mere selfish action when what he gains is at the cost of the general welfare of the State.
To prevent such repugnant trafficking in interests, and to destroy those springs which taint our selfrespect, will be the object of every one who believes that our real progress depends not upon the surrender of our judgment, but upon the maintenance of our individual independence.
Now the repeal of the Corn Laws was carried in the former way; it was effected by a surrender of judgment.
§ 24. "Capital diverted from less to more remunerative sources," in free-trade argument, refers to commercial operations of the whole world. It does not apply, except injuriously, to one nation, when other nations pursue a different commercial policy.—What did the repeal of the Corn Laws do at once, and what did it tend to do hereafter? It did not have any greater influence on the price of bread than would have happened under protection till 1866. But when the imports began to assume formidable dimensions, then the price of wheat began to go down. There was a tendency put into being by the repeal of the Corn Laws to destroy the welfare of our agriculture. Cobden never thought this tendency could become so powerful as it has done.1 He intended foreign competition to increase the annual produce of the soil. Now let us observe the two periods, in the former of which a free intercourse in corn did not cheapen bread, and in the latter of which it has exercised a constant influence in lowering its price.
1. There was an excessive activity in our manufacturing industries. Our agriculture was not, on the whole, at first severely depressed, though some inferior and unremunerative soils (rendered so by the new conditions) went out of cultivation, and its means of advance were removed. There was a change in the incidence of taxation. The manufacturing classes had to bear the burden of an income-tax. The landlord class did not suffer from the abolition of the Corn Laws; on the contrary, their rents rose. The only classes which suffered from the alteration of taxation were the professional classes, and the owners of fixed incomes.
1 This was the capital error into which he was led by taking a fixed view of the operation of this tendency. Because, in 1845, there was but a surplus of one million and a half quarters of wheat in the granaries of the world available for our deficiency, so twenty years hence, or forty years hence, this proportion was to remain the same, for Cobden inquired, Where was the corn to come from? From the Mississippi. Then Cobden replied, the cost of transit would not remunerate the buyer (p. 152).
Thus, while agriculture nearly maintained her level, and, though the opportunity existed, the chances of seeing foreign goods in our markets were considered to be very remote, we could not be said to suffer any actual loss through the free-trade measure. For what little we lost in agriculture we more than compensated by the moral influence of free trade upon manufacture. But the tendency to throw corn-land out of cultivation was growing apace, though in the excitement of our manufacturing prosperity it was ignored. But when we reach the next period we see a different state of things.
2. Manufactures still flourishing, though their advance is becoming checked. Agriculture depressed; the price of corn constantly receding; only the very best soils yield a profitable return. The amount of income-tax increases for a while, but afterwards becomes stationary. Here we reach the stage when agriculture becomes depressed.1 Bread has become cheaper. This is what the manufacturers wanted long before. But observe, when this desired result appeared, it was at the time when their progress was in the course of being retarded. It was a good thing then for the labouring classes to have cheap bread when the manufacturers would, perforce, reduce wages. But at what expense was this gain
1 The depression of agriculture began to lie felt in Ireland and Scotland. In Ireland, in 1853, no less than 250,000 small farmers were forced to quit the soil. The consequence of this upon the material prosperity of Ireland is easily recognised, and Mr Isaac Butt (quoted from the 'Fair Trade Journal' of May 20, 1887) further declared that "what had then occurred in Ireland was but the prelude to what would occur in England."
to the manufacturing interest obtained? It was brought about by the commencing destruction of our agriculture.
We cannot say now that this repeal of the Corn Laws has acted in the self-interest of the nation. The duties on corn were remitted; consumers eventually gained thereby, but " producers" have lost. "When the duties on the raw materials of manufacture were abolished, we saw that the balance was on the side of gain to both consumers and producers. But now we see that, by the repeal of the Corn Laws, consumers have benefited at the expense of the producers.
This is the contrast which, we think, is worthy the attention of the reader. Seeing that the self-interest of the nation is the sum of the self-interests of all its industries, we can now discern how the remission of one species of tax may improve the national interests, while the repeal of another may injure them. It does not follow (though the practice of the free-traders tells us that they somewhat arbitrarily, we do not say ignorantly, assume the truth of the universal conclusion), that because you can show that some taxes upon our trade and commerce at some time work positively to our harm, all those taxes must necessarily bring about the same injurious consequences.1 Nor is it the fact that because some taxes on trade have been pompously described as fetters, that all taxes are fetters on trade. But it conforms with the arrogance of the free-trader, who is aware nowadays that free trade is not solely responsible
1 This is to argue from a part to the whole. But such is only valid when all the other parts are similarly conditioned. Nobody can assert that our agriculture and manufacture are now, and were then, surrounded by similar conditions. It is not even true of the several branches of our manufactures.
for our former prosperity, to condemn every kind of policy which is not a free-trade policy. And it is certain that he will state that neither the consumers nor the producers " are " hurt by our present free intercourse in corn. We are not injured, says he, for it is much better to have bread cheap than dear. But what does he say to the question, "Have the agricultural producers been injured by this free trade in corn?" They cannot but affirm the injury. But how do they balance it? They adduce a greater gain. They point to manufacturing prosperity. Our manufactures are increasing, and consuming the labour displaced in agricultural districts.1 And they end a mere verbal description of what no doubt was originally intended to be, with the portentous proposition: "Capital and labour are diverted from less to more remunerative sources."
Now such a proposition may be true enough when there is abundance of resources. But when these resources are limited, such a circumstance will, in the opinion of most people who are not free-traders, limit the value of that otherwise excellent doctrine. For, let us suppose that agricultural .labour has been consumed in manufacture; when depression comes upon that manufacture, there will be a tendency for much of her labour to be displaced to more productive sources. But our manufactures are the "natural" industries of
1 The reader will observe a certain amount of assumption in this statement of the free-trader, when he reflects—(1) that emigration rapidly increased during the early part of our free-trade policy; and (2) that the relative degree of the national pauperism has not undergone any sensible diminution. On the contrary, during the last few years, the tendency has been for pauperism to increase in the metropolis.