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corresponding spread of general well-being such as was at one time not unreasonably expected. Even before the commencement of the present depression of trade, there were many unpleasant features in the manufacturing system of Western Europe. But profits were high, and, till within a recent period, seemed likely to increase. The workmen, by judicious and resolute strikes, were able to demand and obtain better wages; and, although, even in the most flourishing centres of industry, much pauperism and misery among the unskilled workers were generally present, so long as the revenue, in Mr. Gladstone's phrase, “went up by leaps and bounds,” these minor social evils were not likely to attract notice. But, as everybody now knows only too well, a great change has come over the world in the last ten years. Profits in nearly all trades are diminishing, and will probably diminish still

Hitherto, capitalists have been the chief sufferers; but it cannot be long before the workmen will have their turn of loss in the form of decreased wages. At the present rate of decline, a point will, before long, be reached, when the employer will get little or no return for his capital invested in manufactures, and when the workman will be able to get no adequate wage for the labour he gives.


I do not pretend to say that if I had been able to treat this question with the fulness I desired, I should have been able to throw light on a subject which has puzzled more competent persons than myself. In truth, I fear I should be considered a Job's comforter at the best. My view is that the present industrial system is less capable of mending than ending, and that it is, in fact, doomed to a not remote extinction. And this, not because it is offensive to persons of fine taste, and destroys rural beauty (the artistic view); nor because it makes a few capitalists very rich, and leaves many workmen very poor (the current Socialist view): but because it cannot continue on its own lines; that with more than a fair field and plenty of favour, it is yet breaking down from inherent vices for which there is no remedy.

The industrial system had its origin in the latter half of the last century, when Watt and Arkwright brought the power of steam to bear on the production of commodities. With her easily accessible coal and iron, England had an immense start of the continental countries; and for a long time was the mart of the world. So long as other countries were content to buy our commodities instead of producing them themselves, the arrangement was highly satisfactory-to Englishmen; and it lasted long enough for many of them to believe that it was a law of Nature that Britons should make and sell goods, and foreigners should buy them. But in time the foreigner took heart, and thought he also would like to make and sell commodities. The result has been, that most of our old customers have become our rivals; and they compete with us not only in their own markets, which they artfully shield by protective tariffs, but in the barbarous markets of the world in China, East Africa, and elsewhere.

But the competing foreigner has come late into the field; and trade and commerce offer no longer the same returns which they did when England, , with her many advantages, set out on her industrial

Competition is now everywhere of the keenest, and cheapness of production the primary object. The result is a race in which no competitor can absolutely win, but one in which all must, in process of time, become exhausted. For there is no fixed goal to be reached; the goal flies before the runners, and the first in the race cannot avoid ultimate collapse. In each country manufacturers compete among themselves, while they compete also with their foreign rivals. Constantly improved machinery enables a larger out-put at less cost to be thrown upon the market, with the obvious effect, now distressing everybody, of a well-nigh universal glut, and a growing cheapness never before witnessed. In the mean time, profits on capital and wages of labour are tending to the vanishing point; and the only question is, how long it will be before that point is reached.


It is obvious that the conditions of trade and commerce are nearly wholly changed within the last fifty years. A small and industrious population like the English, commanding an extensive seaboard, good harbours, and a large commercial marine, surrounded, moreover, by neighbours chiefly agricultural, could obtain a world-wide trade which moved the wonder and

envy of contemporaries. But it was a beau idéal of commercial success which cannot be repeated by imitators, nor even kept up by its original inventors. Our Manchesters and Liverpools were once without rivals in the world. Now they have to contend with an ever-increasing competition, which has already told on their prosperity, and must, in the near future, tell still more. Add to this, that the vastly improved means of transport are now more and more bringing commercial competitors into one great race-course.

The English farmer is exposed to competition from


America, Russia, and India; and crushed by importations of corn from those countries which, owing to soil, climate, or greater cheapness of labour, have a great advantage over England in the cheap production of cereals. Any industry may be killed, as it were by enchantment, in an old country, by the discovery of new means of cheaper production on the other side of the globe. The instability of industries is frightful. The commercial atmosphere is more uncertain and capricious than the physical atmosphere, though that is generally taken as a symbol of uncertainty. It is as if our weather were sensitive to, and influenced by, the cyclones of the Indian Ocean; or the terra firma of our quiet island were shattered responsively by earthquakes in Japan and South Carolina. It is little to say that such facts were not dreamed of in the olden time. They would not have been deemed possible in the recent days of Cobden and Peel.

Some persons in England, and many abroad, believe that these evils are traceable to Free Trade, and recommend Protection or Fair Trade as a remedy. It were much to be wished that so simple a cure were possible ; for the threatened evils are so great, that it is not a time to be punctilious on economic or any

theories. The difficulty is to show

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