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ing already scouted the idea of a scientific frontier,1 left the natural frontier unprotected. Then there happened what has been sarcastically described as the " unfortunate incident" at Penjdeh, in which a few Afghans were slaughtered. It is quite possible that this affair was conducted merely for the sake of redressing some political grievance which Eussia had against the Ameer of Afghanistan, England's subsidised ally. But it might also have other bearings.2 It is evident, from the activity shown by the Ministry then in office, these "other bearings" were entertained; and further, that the worst was apprehended. This reference to a recent historical event suffices to show the falsity of what Cobden, and those who thought with him, maintained. The commercial reformer was so much wrapt up in present effects, and those immediately consequent, that the remote ones were altogether ignored. He not only took a partial view, but even that view was limited. But from that "incident" we may learn this lesson, that Eussia would not throw away all the gains which she derives from her exportation of corn, unless there was a larger prize almost within her grasp. Thus it is not present commercial advantages, but the requirements of her future policy, that determine her present actions. So far, then, as to the removal of restrictions to trade on our side, they have not been followed by
1 The united Liberal party was then under the leadership of Mr Gladstone. It has since ceased to exist as such.
- The vote of credit for the transport of troops proves that the Liberal Ministers did not know what that event portended. The haste with which they acted clearly shows that they were taken at a disadvantage.
those beneficial effects which Cobden predicted of them.
There is another point to consider regarding the theory of international trade. It does not tend to diminish friction, as we have just seen. But what does it do? It cheapens articles to the consumers of both nations; it favours the production of the smaller nation, while it injures the production of the larger. It causes inequality, therefore. The free-trader will, of course, go beyond this, and, by means of a universal proposition—which, to be relevant to the issue of a particular case, must be qualified and limited—seek an outlet in "capital and labour being diverted from less to more remunerative channels." He will say that the larger nation of the two under consideration will drive a profitable business with another nation, this third nation with some fourth one, and so on. Thus a chain is formed, but it remains linear. Cobden thought it would become a circle. Now it could not possibly become a circle, so that each nation might have an equal share of increased activity, unless all nations were surrounded, more or less, by the same conditions. But such is not the case now; nor has it ever been so in the history of the world.
Was it Cobden's intention to reduce all nations to the same level by a universal free trade? He does not expressly state it. What he asserts is that each nation would derive an increased trade activity. But he does not proceed to tell us how such increased activity would be distributed. There can be no doubt that all the nations of the world, during Cobden's agitation, were not similarly placed as to commercial advantages. The conditions surrounding each differed, and the differences in many cases were extreme. Was it logical to assume that, because a certain principle which he proved to the English people, or thought he proved, would be beneficial to their trade intercourse with foreign nations, the same principle would also be associated with the same beneficial results when applied to other and dissimilar conditions? Was it prudent to venture on a policy, the final issue of which could not be determined with ordinary certainty?
This theory of so-called international trade is thus seen not to be a safe international trade policy. All international trade bargains tend to aim at equal exchanges. Such an equal result can only be brought about by a treaty of reciprocity. For by that method alone can real equality be attained.1
As the largest part of the labour of any community is consumed when industry is protected, it follows, from the circumstance of nations being on different commercial levels, and the weaker finding it to their interest to protect their trades, that the most secure and advantageous practice of the stronger is to be self-supporting. For otherwise, the weaker nation has a more extensive market, if its powerful rival is a free-trader, while the free-trade country becomes restricted, not only as to revenue, but as to kind of productions, both from the barrier which foreign duties create, as well as from the competition in its own markets of foreign goods.
1 I.e., a tendency towards equality. No system can produce an actual commercial equality. Treaties are drawn up with that end in view, but are allowed to run for a term of years only; and for this reason, to provide for future contingencies.
International trade would then be limited to the surplus produce of each nation; and this would be exchanged, with the least friction and the least irregularity, by means of a system of reciprocity such as Huskisson put into practice. A treaty framed upon this principle, would be free from all objections that it had been concocted with the view of one party deriving an unfair advantage at the expense of its neighbour. The basis of such a treaty is self-interest and not selfishness. But in course of time, and with a change in surrounding conditions, the treaty might only confer a nominal equality; it might lose its original purpose of creating a real equality. And this is a sufficient argument why it should be limited to a term of years.
§ 36. Comparison between reciprocity and unequal free trade (Cobden's " ideal reciprocity ").—If, now, we contrast such a reciprocal system with our isolated free-trade policy, we shall find two stages at which to make the comparison. While free trade made us prosperous, as it is the boast of the free-traders that it was during its early career the chief source of our prosperity, the impression made upon the foreigner was adverse to the nation acting so contrary to all past experience in the history of commerce. "Go thou and do likewise," was what Cobden told other communities, to sooth their angered feelings. "Experience the same prosperity that we do by the same means." But the foreigner revolved in his mind the future as well as immediate effects of such a policy. It was not an easy task to stand by and see another people rapidly accumulating wealth at his own expense. If he became a free-trader, he foresaw that his political power would diminish, and the progress of the people be retarded; for all the benefit to be derived from mutual free trade would be conferred upon that nation which originally had the greatest advantages. Therefore he remained protectionist, and nursed the industries of his countries. He detected that the free-trader had abused those advantages which a long line of prosperous merchants had gradually acquired for their countrymen. He saw all those advantages frittered away; and perhaps he perceived also that the greater part of that prosperity which attended free trade was dependent, in the main, upon another cause. At any rate, he had the power and used it to shut the markets of his country, while the markets of the free-trader remained open to him.
Thus it has come about that our weak points have been successively attacked. The competition induced by free trade has never been " unequal" in our favour. But we were enabled by other forces to counteract its adverse influence. These forces having lost their original intensity, we now experience the gradually increasing adverse operation of free trade. But free trade is not blamed by those interested in its maintenance as the cause of distress; and it appears on this ground only—that it was associated with a prosperity which lasted for sixteen years. Our manufacturers are now aware that competition is against them, and thus it becomes, in the fitful course of events, the turn of the free-trader to feel resentment at inequality. We have already traced how this inequality has been effected. What we desire to point out, at this juncture, is its adverse influence upon the labour prospects of the