Page images

English goods, and maintains an admirable though not always well-founded belief in the superiority of all things English. If he goes abroad he is always looking forward to his home-coming. Neither English cooking, the English climate-in fact, none of the discomforts of life endured in this strange land of strength and queer discrepancies has any terrors for himwhen he is away from them. Let him live a quarter-century in a foreign land, it is never home to him. He is always planning his return.

When Bernard Shaw remarked that he was not sure whether the fog produced the Englishman, or the Englishman the fog, he may have had in mind a certain grimness which pervades the industrial and commercial world of England. The manufacturing towns are hopelessly hideous, the laboring people live under conditions of gloom almost inconceivable. There is no joy in life; one almost wonders why they live. This atmosphere extends up to the top. As a rule the offices are dull and dingy; everything is submerged in a seriousness which extends from the boy in buttons at the door to the great man within, who, with stern face and abstracted air, may be going to a board meeting at which large affairs are to be disposed of, or to an afternoon tea-you never can tell which.

For years the English business man has had only himself to depend upon for information concerning his business. His government is trying now to help him a little. British consuls are making excellent reports from foreign lands, and the Board of Trade, with its intelligence bureau and other helpful agencies, is at his disposal. The effort made and the money spent are incredibly small, however, and when they are compared with the elaborate systems to be found on the Continent and in the United States, one is tempted to term the present manner of British trading as individualism gone mad; doomed to serious inroads or even disaster under the attacks of organized competition. The momentum of capital invested, the control of the seas, the knowledge and skill acquired from many generations, and the dogged determination characteristic of the British people, will carry them far, perhaps far enough to give them time to set their house in order before they have

lost their present lead as the greatest purveyor to the needs of the world.

For many years the people of the United States have been treated to political rhapsodies as to the national balances of trade. When our exports have exceeded our imports the balance was said to have been "in our favor." It is true that the years of greatest prosperity in America have been when the balances of foreign trade were largest in that direction. Our English cousins look at these things from a different point of view, for it is equally true that England's fattest years have been those in which, as we say, her balance of trade has been largest "against" her. It is when her imports exceed her exports by the most millions that business is good and profitable. They regard this balance "against" them as their trading profit, and in it lies the source of the millions of pounds sterling available annually for further foreign investment. The surplus of exports from the United States goes abroad largely to pay foreign carriers, tourist expenses, interest in American securities held abroad, and the remittances of foreign-born residents to their native lands. The fact that the country is able to do this indicates its abounding and continuing internal wealth and activity. England is a broker, a trader, and business passes through the hands of her people leaving little more than the percentage of profit. America is yet in the making, a safe and popular debtor to the coffers of the older peoples, and England is her preferred creditor.

There is much talk in the United States of the importance of American trade with South America, with China, and a score of other places. The real importance of the trade with these countries lies in possibilities, for by comparison with our present trade with England, some of these outlets appear almost negligible. England has been for years our greatest customer and the country from whose warehouses we have drawn the greatest amount of our supplies. The exchanges of commerce between England and the United States amount to over $900,000,000 annually, or nearly a third of our total business with all the nations. To England we send foodstuffs, cotton, and other raw materials, to say nothing of millions of dollars' worth of manufactured goods. From England we


get cotton and woolen cloths, manufactures of iron and steel, spirits, and a thousand other important articles which, notwithstanding our tariff barriers, we find it possible and advantageous to import. This great trade is accepted as a matter of course by the American people and is seldom the subject of comment or legislation except it be more or less unfriendly.

The recently enacted American tariff law, in spite of its high import duties on the goods we get from England, was accepted by the statesmen of that country as being more just to England than any law the United States has enacted for many years. Offering us a free market as she does, England has at least expected favored-nation treatment. She has hitherto looked for it in vain. We made treaties of commerce with other nations whereby we traded concession for concession, but English goods continued to pay full rates, for, giving all, she had no power to make further concessions. Under the maximum and minimum system, which went into force with the enactment of the PayneAldrich bill, England is assured of the minimum rates, and while her people think American customs duties are outrageously high, they also feel that they are more justly treated inasmuch, as they express it, they are no worse off than their rivals. The American trade with England will continue for years to represent a large percentage of our foreign commerce, for England must buy her food and her raw materials, and North America is the greatest producing area for such as her people require.

In the matter of supplies the English people are struggling for independence of the United States. The fluctuation of the American cotton markets has caused riots in the manufacturing districts. American trade combinations are held responsible for the high prices of food. It is this feeling which has helped along the spirit of empire in England and led to heavy investment in the British protectorates in the attempt to develop new supplies of cotton, food-stuffs, and other raw staples. So far these expenditures have had no appreciable effect in diverting the trade from North America, and in view of the enormous supplies required, it will be many years before they become really apparent. If such a time does arrive it will also be indicative

of a change in the character of American industry, for the energies of the people will have turned to other fields, resting content that the home market be supplied with raw materials rather than a surplus be created for export. For the seller of staples and raw materials is the least intelligent and least prosperous of the world's traders.

It is British capital that has developed the British Empire and trade follows capital investment. Roughly speaking, twentyfive per cent. of England's foreign commerce is with her imperial dominions, though virtually every one of these dependencies has enacted customs laws which demand toll from the trade of the mother country as well as from that of other lands. The only concessions yet made have been those of preferential duties. How frail a tie this may be upon which to found the commercial unity of an empire of which the pivot is a free market is shown in the fact that the imports of British goods into British colonies are now decreasing annually, while imports of foreign goods show a notable increase. It is also even more strikingly brought home to the people of England by the proposed commercial arrangement between the United States and Canada. Leading English statesmen have designated the event as the "death of preference." Even those who have made this scheme the basis of their political creeds. admit the severity of the blow and the "narrowing of the margin" for the possible establishment of an imperial zollverein.

That the United States and Canada should in time come closer together in matters of material interest has been inevitable since the settlement of the one country under two flags. It has been the wonder and despair of thoughtful men in the United States that such an arrangement was not accomplished long ago. It has been the wonder and satisfaction of British statesmen that it was so long delayed. The British people have been hugging the delusion for many years that natural laws could be rendered inoperative by sentiment and legislation; and that her lusty colony would remain content under the parent roof-tree and continue to contribute her earnings to the family purse even after the coming of age. This illusion has been a most attractive toy with which the Brit

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
[graphic][merged small]

ish politician has interested his audience and with which public attention has been diverted from the real dangers which threatened the peace and welfare of the home itself.

Acting under the almost incomprehensible theory that the home country was being strengthened in the building up of countries which, although under the same flag, treated her only as a favored nation, Great Britain has been drained of much of her expert labor and the fittest of the unemployed. These men, with their women and children, have been urged, even assisted to leave, while the lands of the British Islands cried aloud for intelligent and economical tillage, the sweat-shops of East London grew apace through unrestrained immigration of the more or less undesirable, and the wage scales of industry remained at low ebb because of the cost of production through ancient methods and inefficiency. Like unto the mother of seven sons lost in battle, she gives of her children to the universal development and

progrèss of the world, but the home is desolated.

To say that in this now fading illusion of empire there lies a tremendous and magnificent pathos is to seem almost irreverent, for it is to the British nation, its worldwide and broadcast sowing of right-thinking men and women that the world owes its progress in the last two centuries. It is only because of the grasping of politicians for marionettes with which to amuse the crowd that the real meanings of the forces at work are lost sight of. The people are scanning far horizons for rainbows of promise when they have the materials beneath their feet with which to stop the now ominous gaps in the wall of home defense; and there are no better materials more quickly to be molded to desired ends than those which lie close to hand. Anything which will leaven the toiling mass of humanity, quicken the pulse and the intelligence, bring hope to the children of the hopeless, will do more to prolong England's hold upon the trade.

« PreviousContinue »