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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

13. Other countries are too wise to follow the example of England, and adopt Free Trade

13. Other countries are too wise to follow the example of England, and adopt Free Trade.

We submit that for the words "too wise," we ought to substitute "not wise enough." But, indeed, "wisdom" has had little to do with the discussion of the subject abroad. The great bulk of the people composing civilised nations have never studied, never considered, and perhaps hardly ever heard the name of, Free Trade; and yet it is the great bulk of the people who are most interested in it, and to whose welfare it would most conduce. Of the wealthier and more leisured classes, part are the capitalists who have embarked their fortunes in, and identified their interests with, the protected industries, and all their influence is directed against any change; while the rest are, for the most part, indifferent to the sub- page 39 ject, absorbed in other pursuits, and averse to trouble them-selves with dry questions of political economy. As to the governing classes, they chiefly devote their attention to those topics which more immediately press on them—such as party triumphs or defeats, foreign politics, financial devices, religious contentions, dynastic intrigues, and other matters of statecraft As to whether the people they govern would prosper better under Free Trade than under Protection, why should they trouble themselves about that, since the people, who are the greatest sufferers, do not move in it? Why should they lose votes, and perhaps power, to introduce changes which the many whom these changes would benefit do not ask for, and the few whom they would inconvenience loudly cry against?

Nevertheless, from all these various social strata there come forth in every nation a certain number of thoughtful, truth-seeking men who do study the subject, and whom that study has made Free Traders. These men, whose convictions are founded on research, are by no means inactive in promulgating the truth. But they are as yet comparatively few, and their voice only reaches a small part of the multitude itself, whose earnings are being clipped and pared by protective taxes. Gradually and steadily, however, nations are becoming leavened by Free Trade doctrines. A small but increasing number of active politicians in every country are clustering into a compact Free Trade party, and their labours in the cause are entitled to our warmest appreciation and sympathy. They have up-hill work before them. In their endeavours to benefit their countrymen they meet with apathy on the part of those whom they wish to serve, with obloquy on the part of those interested in the abuse which they wish to correct, and with neglect on the part of the rulers whose policy they wish to influence. All honour to their glorious efforts! This passing tribute is amply due from us, who have gone through the struggle, to our brother Free Traders in protective countries who are going through it. That they will succeed in breaking through the barriers of ignorant indifference and interested opposition, no one who sees how irresistibly the wave of progress is rolling onward throughout the world, can for a moment doubt. To page 40 sum up, the truth is that The Moment the Mass of the People in other Countries shall become aware that Protection Taxes the many for the Benefit of the few, Free Trade will become Universal.