The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 52
Less Free Trade, or More. — Which, shall it be?
Less Free Trade, or More.
Which, shall it be?
We are told that England is suffering from too much Free Trade, and some of our Squires and Landlords want to tax the Corn and Sugar and Bacon coming from abroad—the cheap food of our Working Classes.
Let us see whether that is the right way of going about the improvement of our Trade and our Manufacturing Industries.
In 1831—1839 we reduced duties on 700 foreign articles, and in the next ten years the Commerce of this Country increased a full fourth in Annual Value!
In 1842 we further lowered the tariff on 750 articles from abroad, and again in ten years our Business multiplied by more than one-half!
In 1860 we abolished every duty on foreign manufactured goods and many upon raw materials In the next twenty years our Trade about doubled!
Thus we see prosperity follows the Extension of Free Trade, and Not the Diminution of Free Trade! What is Wanted, Therefore, in 1885, Is not Less but More Free Trade!
Let us, therefore, see where it may be applied before resorting to the desperate expedient of taxing the food of the Poor.
First then: We want Free Trade in Land. The fetters that bind up millions of acres by settlements (so that their very owners are powerless to sell orpage break
- Variety of Cultivation.
- Fair Rates of Carriage.
- Middlemen's Profits.
There are thus five ways in which the Farmers' condition may be improved. Let us consider them.
First, What is Rent?
Rent is that portion of the produce of the land which remains over after rewarding the Labourer for his toil, and the Farmer for his outlay and his work.
It is just what remains over that the Farmer can afford to pay as Rent. If nothing remains over, the land can bear no rent.
The Labourer and the Farmer should be considered first; the Landlord last.
In practice this rule has been reversed. Rent has been made the first consideration. Agriculture has become a game of chance, and Farmers the sport of Fortune.
It is heads the Landlords win, and tails the Farmers lose.
The consequence is that Farmers have wasted their capital, and Labourers have been forced to migrate.
What Farmers want from Landlords is: Security for their Capital; Compensation for their Improvements, and no Raising of Rents thereon; more Liberty in Cultivation; Stability of Tenure; and Reduced Rents, calculated on a more equitable basis than exists at present.
Farmers should go in for Variety of Cultivation. They should remember that we annually import twenty-three million pounds' worth of butter, eggs, cheese, poultry, game, fruit, and vegetables.page break
Farmers should agitate for Fair Bates of Carriage. American meat and cheese are carried at 25s. a ton from Liverpool to London, while English meat is charged 50s., and cheese from Cheshire, 42s. 6d.
Potatoes from France are brought to London for 30s. a ton; from Penzance they are charged 45s. From Victoria Docks, London, to Peterborough foreign corn pays 6s. 8d. a ton, including barging, &c., while the ordinary charge for English corn for the same distance is 14s. 5d.
Fruit from Holland to London pays 25s. a ton. This fruit passes through Sitting bourne in Kent, from which station the charge on English fruit is also 25s.
The difference in the railway rates between foreign wheat and barley and English wheat and barley amounts to a rent of 5s. per acre.
As to Middlemen's Profits, the margin between what the Farmers get and what Consumers pay should be narrowed to the benefit of both parties.
The sheep which the Farmer sells for £3 costs the Consumer £4 10s.
Milk which the Farmer sells for 1d. or 1½d., the Consumer pays 4d. or 5d. for, besides sometimes getting an adulterated article.
The annual value of milk sold amounts to Thirty Millions Sterling; far more than that of the wheat crop of the United Kingdom.
Last year 230,000 tons of meat were sold in Smithfield Market.
One halfpenny per pound on this, which is more than One Million Sterling, might probably by union and combination be put into Farmers' pockets from this one market.
These are the directions in which Farmers should look for relief; not to that Will o' the Wisp—a duty on foreign corn, which, as bitter experience has shown, benefits not the cultivator but the owner of the soil.
One thing is certain:—This nation will never again consent to raise artificially, by protective duties, the page break price of any product, whether of agriculture or of manufacture, above what it fetches in the general market of the world.
From all time the Agriculturist has been too apathetic.
It is of the Countryman that the fable written 2,400 years ago speaks of as praying to Hercules to drag his cart out of the rut.
The story goes that Hercules refused his aid, and told him to put his shoulder to the wheel. This is what the Farmer must do if he would succeed nowadays in his noble calling.
He must pat his Shoulder to the Wheel.
George W. Medley.
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