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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51



Year Acres Under Corn Crops. Average Price of Wheat. No. of Cattle. No. of Sheep.
1870 11,755,053 46s. 10d. 9,235,052 32,786,783
1877 11,103,196 56s. 9d. 9,731,537 32,220,067
1878 11,030,175 46s. 5d. 9,761,288 32,571,018
1879 10,777,459 43s. 10d. 9,961,536 32,237,958
1880 10,672,086 44s. 4d. 9,871,153 30,239,620

Here is the one bad exhibit in the national balance-sheet. Bad as these figures are, however, they do not, at first sight, convey any idea of the disastrous years, 1877, 1878, and 1879.

To obtain anything like a correct notion of the circumstances, it must be borne in mind that an almost total failure of crops, especially in 1879, was accompanied by very low market prices. The result was disastrous to the agricultural interest, and to every other interest which depended on it.

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Landlords had to forego their rents. Farmers lost a great portion of their capital. Manufacturers lost the home markets. All this constituted our agricultural, and helped to constitute our commercial, depression.

Our working classes, however, owing to the bountiful harvests of America, were fed more cheaply than ever. And this has been, commercially and economically speaking, the salvation of the country.

I speak, of course, of the nation as a whole. Certain interests have suffered, and are suffering. The agricultural interest, and the manufacturing and commercial interests which depend on it, have suffered, and are still suffering, from the combined influences of bad harvests and low prices. But, large and important as these interests are, they cannot be allowed to outweigh the interests of the whole community.

As we have seen from all these facts and figures, it is quite possible that important interests may suffer, and yet that the community as a whole may be prospering. No Free Trader denies, or wishes to deny, that certain interests have suffered.

What the Free Trader asserts is that the nation as a whole is prosperous and thriving, and that the proofs abound on every side. The Neo-Protectionists deny this; but, in seeking to prove their case, they do not appeal to facts as a whole, but pick and choose those which appear to bear out their contention.

The facts, however, which they bring forward never do more than show that some particular interest or class is suffering, and this no one is concerned to deny; their facts never prove that the nation, as a whole, is suffering. In truth, every fact proves that the nation, as a whole, is very prosperous.

As a matter of course, the classes which suffer call out for relief. Agriculturists agitate for "Protection." Manufacturers clamour for "Reciprocity." I will discuss these matters in the following chapter.