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porary gain, if you please; but you cannot argue from it alone or the means by which it was effected. To deduce the true conclusion, you are bound to relate this temporary gain with the steady progress of each industry before its occurrence, and the subsequent reaction of depression consequent on it. It is thus that you will be able to discern the real nature of such artificial changes, and the fictitious support which they have acquired for the innovators who made them.
But the free-traders answer that the changes wrought in our commercial code are not artificial changes, but sound and natural ones. To this the protectionist replies, that such changes would be sound enough, did subsequent events correspond with what the freetraders originally predicted of them; for with such conditions the efficacy of their reforms, once begun, would continue.1 The means they used to stimulate our trade were not of a kind to prevent depression under all possible conditions; so that, when once depression began to reign, the nation found itself absolutely without control over its course.
§ 27. The central force controlling our trade and commerce abandoned by the free-traders. Cobderis so-called "natural regulator " has broken[doum.—That controlling power, the virtue of which Pitt recognised and Huskisson would not let go, was abandoned by Cobden and
1 In other words, the action of a principle varies with changes in its snrrounding conditions. The free-traders predicted such an alteration of those surroundings as would favour the operation of free trade. But such changes have not been effected. Thus our free-trade policy acted upon a set of conditions. It induced a primary change in them. But now the reaction has set in, contrary to Cobden's prediction.
the free-traders. The reins of the vehicle of our trade, held with degrees of firmness according to the separate surroundings of each industry, but yet capable of being relaxed or tightened in each as alterations in those surrounding conditions required, were laid aside. And the bulk of our trade and commerce comes to be likened to a ship sailing at first in smooth waters, but afterwards in a dangerous channel, and without a helmsman. Its direction was left to an ideal force. There was a theoretic guide to conduct the whole, but there were also on board several leaders whose policies were antagonistic. Many deserted the unsafe craft when they saw disaster looming before it. This ship of commerce, whose rudder was directed by external forces created to impede its progress, is nearing the shoal which foreign protective tariffs have made, if it be not already sunk in it. But what destroyed the helmsman, for the commands of our theoretic guide still find voices of free-traders to express them? It was the new theoretic guide herself! This guide no longer issued her commands to one country, she delivered them to all nations on the earth. Would they heed them? When they were given, this was by no means certain. Experience had to. decide this, as all other questions. But the prosperous course of our ship of commerce depended entirely upon this contingency. And now, while every other country has -a directing power, England has none over the future career of her trade and commerce under free trade.1
1 It is curious to notice that in every largo system, projected with a view to progress, there is somewhere a restraining influence. In our commerce, protection represented it.
What, then, you will inquire, determined those exponents of the public opinion of an age just gone by to yield up all control over our trades and commerce? Was it merely national self-interest? or was it the pursuit of some private views? Both these elements are found in the complex motive which led the nation partly to believe in free trade. But the great and preponderant element—the central one round which the commercial reform turned—existed in the removal of all restraining influences which were supposed to fetter trade, to diminish the productive powers of the country, and prevent commodities from becoming cheap.
Restraints upon trade—taxes and duties which were fetters upon production and consumption, which interfered with "abundance," and which caused an artificial dearness at home as compared with the natural prices of foreign markets; all alike came beneath the sweeping condemnation of free-traders. No matter its real action, and whether or not any reasonable exception could be made to any tax or duty, all taxes and duties were restraints. It seems, for no other reason than because some taxes and duties came at a particular period of their progress, to bear heavily upon a special industry. Thus taxes and duties came to be offensive to some leaders of the people, not because they were so in reality, but because they were made to appear so by the free-traders.
We leave it to the impartial to decide whether the universal proposition is valid in the instance of restraints. If they remember that those restraints had various tendencies (carefully suppressed by the freetraders), which were justified by the differences in the surrounding conditions of each industry, then they will perceive the force of the "universal" conclusion.
Now there was this grand achievement under the system of protection. It harmonised the conflicting interests of some industries at home, before it cast eyes upon its external trade. "Take care of the home industries, and let our external trade take care of itself." But such a policy could not be carried out without the imposition of many restraints. And yet, out of all these restraints, each interest of the nation found its account.1 And with the continuance of these restraints there existed the least unfavourable conditions for internal disorder and distress.
But under the policy of free trade, the home industries have been left to take care of themselves; and all efforts are directed towards making our import trade as vast and as cheap as possible.
This is the difference effected by the change of commercial guides. It is impossible not to conceive that the labour interest of the nation must suffer under the
1 "Protection to all is protection to none."—P. 182. "Let ns, once for all, recognise this principle, that we must not tax ono another for the benefit of one another."—P. 198. Such were Cobden's conclusions. And ho supported himself on what the Duke of Wellington asserted: "Taxes are levied only for the benefit of the State." But Cobden's position refers to a universal freedom of trade. "Protection," said he, "takes from one man's pocket, and allows him to compensate himself by taking an equivalent from another man's pocket." Thus protective nations take from England's revenue, but what docs the free-trader get in return? The "vicious" circle is interrupted. It is not the case that all are robbed to enrich none. But some are robbed; and some, therefore, must be enriched, on Cobden's own showing. And the hands of industry are tied up—in what direction?
latter condition, when the balance of imports over exports is against us. For under free trade we cannot conserve the industries of the country. These decline, as agriculture has declined; and the order in which they decline depends upon the forces they have at their disposal to resist the adverse consequences of unequal competition.