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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 61



Is the second commercial centre in the United Kingdom. The great capitalists saw that if they could acquire cheap land in the neigh- page 63 bourhood of this great port, and construct new harbours and docks, they could make a great deal of money by the transaction. Accordingly, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company acquired a large quantity of property, and constructed docks and warehouses at Fleetwood. The Furness Railway Company and the Midland Company acquired land at Barrow, and constructed docks there; practically they own the port. Prior to the carrying out of these works, no vessel of over 50 tons could enter the harbour; now they can accommodate the largest steamers afloat. Numerous large industries have been started; splendid public buildings erected; land which was unsaleable at 30s. per yard cannot now be had for £30; in fact, a large city which claims to be a rival to Liverpool has been erected. This, no doubt, is in many respects a great advantage, but Liverpool and other places have suffered in order to build up Barrow.

The land acquired and the works completed, the next object was to divert the trade from Liverpool. This was done by maintaining the rates from that city, and carrying from Fleetwood or Barrow at the same or less rates. Thus, the distance from Liverpool to Manchester is 31 miles, from Fleetwood to Manchester 50 miles, and from Harrow to Manchester 87 miles, and the rate for carrying a ton of cotton from port to city is in each instance 9s.*

To give you some idea of how persistently the rates have been maintained against Liverpool, I may mention that in 1881—which is the latest information I have—the Liverpool rates were more than double those from Manchester to Hull, four times those from Manchester to Southampton, and nearly three times those from Manchester to London. In the year mentioned, a firm of carriers made an offer to the Liverpool merchants that if they would guarantee 1,000 tons each way per week, they would cart from the warehouse in Manchester to the ship's side, 31 miles or more, for 3s. 6d. per ton less than the railway charges.

When the wealthy operators have sufficiently depressed the the price of real estate in Liverpool, they will, no doubt, invest largely in that city. The rating will then be made in its favour, values will largely increase, and they will be enabled to sell out at enormous profits and then repeat the process either there or somewhere else.

* I do not wish to he misunderstood as saying that the Companies as Companies carry on these operations; nut I say that the great capitalists are the principal shareholders, and therefore the controllers of the English and American railways, and that they can and frequently do use them for such purposes,

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As shewing the effect of the operations of these and other companies on the trade of Liverpool, I may mention that it was given in evidence before the Royal Commission of 1881, that, taking the period from 1869 to 1872, the import and export trade of Great Britain increased by 24 per cent., and the trade of Liverpool by 30½ per cent. For the period of 1872 to 1878, the general increase was 24½ per cent., but the Liverpool increase was only 9½ per cent.; in 1879, the general increase was only 4 per cent., while in Liverpool there was an actual decrease. The action of the companies only came into full operation during the the two last-mentioned periods.

I have dwelt at some length on the case of Liverpool in order to ask this question—If the manipulators of railway traffic can deal in this fashion with the second centre of commerce in the British empire, what is likely to be our fate in Auckland now that the same agencies have been actively set to work against us?* And I also ask—If the roads, the great highways of any country, are to be left in the hands of speculators, to use them according to their own sweet wills, and for their own pleasure and profit, what can ultimately happen to such a country but commercial ruin, and what can follow in the wake of commercial ruin but loss of social position and happiness, and consequent degradation?

So great is the disadvantage at which home producers are placed as regards their foreign competitors, that their discontent is growing louder, deeper, and stronger every day. They ask, and justly ask, Why should our own roads be used as instruments for destroying our trade and commerce by giving foreigners a preferential use of them? I venture to say that before another ten years have passed away, the British Government will be compelled to exercise their right of purchase, take the railways in charge and work them as they ought to be worked—simply as roads

Such a system of levying transit charges as I propose would, I believe, naturally lead to the

* This remark applies with equal force to Napier, Taranaki, Wellington, Otago, and other districts.