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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

The Commerce Between our Possessions

The Commerce Between our Possessions.

Let us pause, though for a moment, to look at the immense volume of trade in the hands of the British people. It amounts to no less than 1,210 million pounds sterling annually, and of this 760 millions belong to the mother country wherein we stand. We thus see that the import and export trade of the British Empire is more than half that of the whole of the rest of the world put together, and that the foreign trade of the United Kingdom is very nearly double that of France, which stands next in order with 464 millions.

Our total export trade from the United Kingdom amounts to 327 millions, and one-third thereof goes to British possessions. Four-fifths of the imports into India are British. In nearly every colony one-half of the external trade is with Great Britain, and three-fifths of it with the British people located in some portion of their empire. As an illustration of the vast interchange of commerce between British possessions, no better example can be found than Victoria. There the strictest protective duties prevail, and with no diminution as regards British goods. Yet, notwithstanding this, we find that out of a total page 15 import trade of 19 millions in 1884, no less than 17 millions' worth were imported from British possessions, and of this more than half came from the United Kingdom. Nor is it less remarkable that the imports from the mother country into British possessions have nearly doubled during the last fourteen years, while the amount of British goods purchased by the great European nations has only increased by one-seventh.

How different is the condition of commerce between Great Britain and foreign States we see at once, when we find that while England buys one-fourth of the total exports of France, British goods only amount to one-twelfth of her imports. We buy one-sixth of the goods sent abroad by Russia, but of the goods the subjects of the Tsar purchase from abroad, ours only amount to one-eighteenth.

In short, if we strike an average of the returns over a term of years, we buy 175 millions' worth of foreign goods in Europe, and only sell to Europe in millions' worth of British goods, that is, a deficiency of 64 millions against us. In foreign countries, not in Europe, we buy 140 millions' worth of goods, but only sell to them in return 70 millions' worth, or one-half. There is, consequently, a balance of considerably over a hundred million annually against us in favour of the foreigner.

To look at the matter in another way. Whereas we find that foreign countries consume an average of less than 10s. per head of British goods, the Canadians consume £2 per head, the South African Colonists £3 per head, and the Australians more than £8 per head. It was a saying in the olden time that one Englishman was a match for two Frenchmen, but now we find that two Australians do more for British commercial interests than thirty-three Americans.

These figures prove beyond all doubt that the object for which our fathers fought, died, and denied themselves, of acquiring colonies to increase the markets of the mother country, has been attained, and this, although the restrictions on colonial trade which overthrew the Spanish and other empires of former ages, and did our own such grievous injury, have been happily removed.

Let us now observe the other side of the picture, and see not only what sale markets we find in the colonies, but also what advantageous markets in which to purchase all we require from other countries for food and clothing, and to work those industries we have established in our midst. We buy from our page 16 brethren beyond the sea no less than 90 millions' worth of goods every year, and it is a trade which is constantly extending and increasing. The varied climates and varied soils of the possessions we share in common with Australasians, Canadians, South Africans, Indians, and they with us, are capable of producing every single article any one of us may require for the sustenance of life, the luxury of fashion, or the pursuit of our callings. We provide capital, industry, experience in manufacture, iron, steel, coal, cutlery, machinery, and ships; Australasia gives wool, meat, excellent wine and oil; Canada furnishes corn, beasts, and timber; South Africa sends diamonds, feathers, corn, and wine; India supplies corn, tea, rice, silk, and cotton; while the West Indies provide sugar, coffee, and tobacco. If, then, all the rest of the world were closed to us, and our condition reduced to that of only trading within our own empire, we should only be sufferers in degree, provided we had not lost sight of the necessity of material force, especially on the high seas as of old, in the days present and to come of might and right.

Addressing the London Chamber of Commerce, not long since, Mr Colquhoun, a gentleman who, the Times said, has had unrivalled opportunities of studying British commerce abroad, declared that: "An examination of the total trade of the fourteen principal States of Europe from 1860 to 1881 brings out the significant fact that, while our trade has increased 85 per cent., that of the fourteen countries combined has grown 162 per cent, or nearly twice as fast as our own; and these figures are becoming more and more unfavourable. In the growth of the European continental trade we have failed to participate, except as carriers. We have up to the present time proceeded on the old, comfortable, easy system of permitting things to arrange themselves, and the only policy, or what has taken the place of a policy, has been laisser aller. This was possible while markets were to be had at will, and customers were more numerous than producers. But now, with overstocked markets at home, our population increasing, and hemmed in by competition and hostile tariffs on all sides, we must not only reverse this easy-going policy, but throw ourselves into the struggle with our utmost energies. There is room here in abundance for drastic reform. The only remedy for this state of affairs is to discover new customers, who are to be found in new markets, and in developing those already existing. These areas for the extension of our com- page 17 merce are to be found in the colonies and in the unopened markets of Asia and Africa. The value of the British colonies and possessions is not even yet recognised by the mercantile and manufacturing classes of the country, and still less by the working man. They are by far our best customers."

I agree in this view. The mutual trade of the British Empire is only in its infancy. It behoves us to increase and develop it by every possible means. We must throw ourselves into the struggle with increased energy.

All patriotic Britons are now seeking to bring about that Imperial Federation of our glorious Empire which will secure that united action, that general concern of each individual in the welfare of the whole commonwealth, which are the only pillars of stability, prosperity, and might. But, at the same time, let us put aside all prejudice, and by the persevering instruction of our youth in practical geography, the science of trading, and foreign languages, fit them for that commercial life which is the pride of the country.

Let us inquire into the openings British men and women can find in Greater Britain. During the last thirty-two years, no less than 5½ million persons have emigrated from the mother country. Of these, 20 per cent., or one-fifth, have gone to Australasia, 10 per cent, to Canada, and 60 per cent, to the United States of America. Is there a true patriot who can look without sorrow at the emigration of nearly four million British subjects to another flag? It is not only because in their oath of naturalisation they "particularly, absolutely, and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland;" but also because they do the friends they leave behind a grievous wrong.

There can be no true relationship without a common nationality; and who would not sooner cut off his right hand than lose his British citizenship or take that oath, while there is British soil equally attractive and offering better prospects crying out for population? The four millions of emigrants who have gone to America may not only one day have to take up arms against us — pray God that it may be in the very distant future, if at all; but they only consume, as we have seen, £2,000,000 worth of British manufactures per annum, instead of £32,000,000 worth, if they had gone to Australasia. It is much to be regretted that past Governments have not recognised this matter, and taken steps to prevent the cheaper passage to America deciding the page 18 choice of a new home. Nobody wants those to emigrate who are doing well here. But if times are hard, trade bad, or competition excessive, why hesitate? There is no reason why a man should go for good. The journey for a single man is nothing at all, and if he does not like it he can come home again. He will find a glorious climate, plenty of work for industrious hands, the telegraph tells him every day all that is passing here, and every week brings letters from "Our Home." The laws are the same, the customs are the same, the sports are the same, and the openings are unbounded. But do not misunderstand me. There are openings without number for capital, for enterprise, for intelligence, and for hands. But there are none for "ne'er-do-wells," or for mere clerical aptitude. Hands are wanted—not heads. There are too many heads already, and all the vacancies are filled up from the well-educated ranks of born colonials.

Now what are the class of men who are wanted and who find ready employment? Chief among them, come men with a knowledge of machinery, who can drive a stationary or locomotive steam engine, understand its mechanism, and do the repairs themselves. Then carpenters, plumbers, masons, and bricklayers are in constant demand. But most of all, farm labourers and handy men are in request The wages vary in the several colonies, but they may be generally taken as fully half as much again as at home, and with every prospect of advancement in life. House rent is dearer in the neighbourhood of towns, but living is not expensive, and in most parts of Australasia 4d. or 5d. a pound for prime meat is high. It goes without saying that for men with large or even small capital, say £1ooo, the chances of very favourable investment are innumerable if they will only bide their time, look before they leap, gain colonial experience, and unlearn much of their old-world knowledge. But those who want to get on must work desperately hard, perhaps harder than they ever did at home, with many ups and downs; they will have to undergo many hardships in all probability; yet in front of all there is wealth, position, and influence. It is attainable by the most persevering of the very humblest.

But I must not forget the ladies. They must pardon my want of gallantry if I tell them that females are greatly in excess in England. They are, however, greatly in the minority in the colonies. The demand for female domestic servants is far greater than the supply, and wages are excellent They are page 19 well treated and fed, and in addition to all this, they will probably be able to exercise much freedom of choice to what fortunate man they will say "for better, for worse." In spite of the great areas wanting population, and the constant demand for good hands in Australasia, the Colonial Governments have to be very careful of their popularity in assisting immigration, as, of course, the tendency is to reduce the rate of wages by increasing the supply of labour. But the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales still offer considerable facilities, as does Canada and the Cape Colony.

It is not my purpose to recommend anyone to emigrate, and still less to recommend any particular colony. But if there is any single man under thirty-five years of age, any single female under thirty, any married couple under forty years of age, who think for any reason of seeking a new home, then the best advice I can give them is to get the "Handy Guide to Emigration to the British Colonies," published by the Central Emigration Society, and then write to the Agent-General of the Colony they select, in Victoria Street, London, for all the latest particulars as to passage, and information as to free grants of land, etc. But whatever the decision be,

"Hold with Britain heart and soul—
One life, one flag, one fleet, one throne—
Britons hold your own,
And God guard all!"

C. E. Howard Vincent.