The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 52
Free Trade and the Working Men
Free Trade and the Working Men.
Certain landlords, farmers, and manufacturers, because their profits at present are not so great as formerly, are attempting to prejudice the people against Free Trade, which has made food and clothing, the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life, cheaper than they ever have been in any civilised state.
The labourers, however, are not likely to be deceived.
Before the Corn Laws were repealed—under the old Protective policy—when times were bad, the masses suffered severely; starving multitudes assembled in the streets, bread riots took place, and scenes of destitution and misery were common in town and country.
The effect of our new commercial system has been to diffuse comfort far more widely among the population, so that when masters have smaller income, the men are not driven to beg or apply to the workhouse.
Consumers in Great Britain never could buy as cheaply as they can now, and, although owing to bad seasons and over-production, many industries are in a state of long-continued depression, the operatives as a rule have no cause to complain, and are not likely to help an agitation, the object of which is simply to raise the price of all articles which they use.
If they will compare the selling rate of everything they eat and wear now with what it was forty years ago, they will be astonished and thankful, and resolved to oppose any attempt to increase the cost of living to them for the benefit of any class.
Duties of every kind are prejudicial to the working men, and their object ought to be, not to go back on laws which kept food of all kinds dear, but to get quit of custom-houses altogether.
W. E. Baxter.
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