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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 52

The Effects of Protection in America

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The Effects of Protection in America.

Buckle crest of the Cobden Club

The following is an extract from a speech delivered by Sir William Bower Forwood, ex-President of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, and late Conservative candidate for Liverpool, to the working men of Liverpool, Dec. 6, 1884, as chairman of the Saturday Evening Free Concert:—

"Let me say a word to the working men I see here. Trade is bad, you say; and foolish men are saying to you that it is caused by Free Trade, and will not be better until we adopt Protection, or Fair Trade, as they call it. I have just landed from America; trade is bad there, and they say it is caused by Protection, and they are beginning to cry out for Free Trade as the only thing that will restore their prosperity. We must be quite wrong here or they must be quite wrong in America. Let us see which it is. Trade is undoubtedly bad enough here. I find on inquiry that the weekly pay-sheets of our great manufactories are about 30 percent, less than two or three years ago. This means lower wages and some men out of work; but there are very few works in this country closed, while in America in some districts there is absolutely no trade at all. There are many small towns in New England where every factory is closed and 20,000 to 30,000 men are out of work. The same is true of the iron and coal industries of Pennsylvania in America: at the present moment men are starving in their tens of thousands. I think you will say from this, if we are to have bad trade (and periods of dull trade must always occur), let us have it as we have it in Free Trade England rather than as they have it in Protected America. But look a little further—we are anticipating brighter days. We know that in whatever part of the world things mend, we shall feel the improvement in a demand for our manufactures. The world are our customers. They are consuming every day our cottons, our woollens, our hard- page break ware, our glass ware, and the hundred and one things we make and produce; and if they are buying a little less to-day, they will buy more to-morrow. We know further, that there have been grand harvests all the world over. This means cheap food, and cheap food always tends to increase prosperity. Already the cotton spindles and looms of Lancashire are actively and fully employed; and we may expect other industries to follow the cotton trade, for this is the first industry to feel better times. The first thing a man does after satisfying his hunger is to clothe himself. Things may be bad, but the prospect in the future is encouraging. In America, on the contrary, the prospect is dark and gloomy in the extreme. Their Protective tariff increases the cost of their manufactures to such an extent that they cannot export them. They have no foreign markets. Their only customers are their own people—the home trade, as we call it. Their mills and factories can produce in six months all the goods America can consume in twelve. What is the result? Manufactories are being closed never to re-open, and people are beginning to rub their eyes and to call out that Protection is played out, and Free Trade is the only thing to save them.

"This is a true picture of the present condition of trade in great Free Trade England and great Protectionist America. Compare these pictures—they are worth a bushel of theories; and if men talk to you about Fair Trade, ask them to tell you how it works at this moment in America.

"In America they can afford to make great experiments, because their resources are so vast that a few mistakes will not ruin them. They have experimented with Protection on a grand scale, and have stood its terrible strain and weight in a wonderful way; but it is now bearing down even America with all her great natural wealth. With such an experience staring us in the face, Fair Trade theories, with all their plausibility, are not only worthless, but desperately mischievous."

Extract from the Annual Report of Secretary McCulloch, of the United States Treasury, submitted to the President of the United States, Dec. 1, 1884.

Relief from Existing Plethora.—" The all-important question, therefore, that presses itself upon the public attention is, How shall the country be relieved from the plethora of manufactured goods, and how shall plethora hereafter be prevented? It is obvious that our power to produce is much in excess of the present or any probable future demand for home consumption. The existing iron, cotton, and woollen mills, if employed at their full capacity, could meet in six months—perhaps in a shorter time—the home demand for a year. It is certain, therefore, that unless markets now practically closed against us are opened, unless we can share in the trade which is monopolised by European nations, the depression now so severely felt will continue and may become more disastrous."

Messrs. Cassell & Company, Limited, La Belle Sauvage Yard, London, E.C., supply the Cobden Club Leaflets in packets of 100, price 1s.