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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 56

United States Protection Versus British Free Trade. — Leaflet No. XXXIII

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United States Protection Versus British Free Trade.

Leaflet No. XXXIII.

Cobden Club Motto

All over the world trade for some time past has been, and is now, very unremunerative and depressed. In this country landlords and tenants are suffering from bad seasons and low prices, manufacturers and merchants from over-production and a lessened demand.

The consequence is a thoughtless cry on the part of certain people who seem to think that legislation can cure all the ills which flesh is heir to, for some kind of protection to native industry. They forget that, notwithstanding the losses of the upper and middle classes, the great body of the operatives have scarcely felt the pressure at all; tithe statistics of pauperism, the deposits in the savings banks, and other facts as remarkable as they are notorious, show that the cheap food, and the cheap clothing of Free Trade, and its attracting to Britain the commerce of the world, have warded off from the poor those dire calamities which used to overtake them before the days of Mr. Cobden and Sir Robert Peel.

But what is the condition of things in the United States, where, for a hundred years, public men have been endeavouring to create and bolster up native industries, and where duties are now levied varying from twenty to one hundred per cent.?

The answer is—a stagnation, glut, and want of markets, such as, perhaps, was never witnessed anywhere before. The tariff, taxing as it does raw materials as well as everything else, has made American goods so dear that British manufactures are driving them out of nearly all the markets of the world, and Congress is at its wits' end where to find a remedy. Throughout the whole of the Eastern States page break armies of unemployed men are walking die streets; 50,000 are out of work in New York, 20,000 in Boston, 25,000 in Chicago, 15,000 in St. Louis; while house-rents remain high, and the reduction in the cost of living is comparatively small. In Fall River wages have been reduced twenty per cent, during the year, and fifty per cent, since 1874. Mr. McCulloch, Secretary to the Treasury, in his report presented to Congress at the opening of the Session, says:—

"Some manufacturing companies have been forced into bankruptcy; others have closed their mills to escape it; few mills are running on full time, and, as a consequence, a very large number of operatives are either deprived of employment or are working for wages hardly sufficient to enable them to live comfortably or even decently."

The position of the American shipping interest is still more deplorable. In 1883-4 only 225,514 tons were turned out in the United States, whilst the shipbuilders of Britain turned out 700,000 tons, and raised a terrible outcry at the falling off from previous years. Once upon a time the Stars and Stripes threatened to supersede the Union Jack on every ocean; now the mercantile navy of Britain amounts to 7,200,000 tons, and is rapidly increasing, while that of the United States is 4,270,000 tons, and doing little more than holding its own.

Thirty years ago seventy per cent, of the ships engaged in the foreign trade of America bore the national flag, only twenty-three per cent, do so now. Let me quote Mr. McCulloch again:—

"The humiliating fact stares us in the face that while the United States not many years ago led all nations in shipbuilding, and was second only to Great Britain in ocean tonnage, it has almost ceased to be recognised as a maritime Power; that nearly all our agricultural productions and manufactured goods which find a market in Europe or South America and the articles received in exchange for them are carried in foreign ships; that the many thousands of Americans who annually visit Europe on business, or for pleasure, go and come in European steamers; that large foreign steamship lines are, in fact, supported by the people of the United States."

Fair Trade is, of course, merely Protection disguised; it means everywhere, certainly it has meant in the United States, the making of great fortunes on the part of the few at the expense of the many, and the building up of a fabric which, although attractive-looking for a time, being built on false foundations, must speedily fall to pieces, and involve widespread and general disaster.

Messrs. Cassell & Company, Limited, La Belle Sauvage Yard, London, E.C., supply this Leaflet in packets of 100, price 1s.