Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VI: MR. CHAMBERLAIN AND IMPERIAL UNITY - The Comedy of Protection
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CHAPTER VI: MR. CHAMBERLAIN AND IMPERIAL UNITY - Yves Guyot, The Comedy of Protection 
The Comedy of Protection, trans. M.A. Hamilton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906).
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MR. CHAMBERLAIN AND IMPERIAL UNITY
I. Proportion of foreign and Colonial trade—II. Exports—III. Colonial markets for national labour—IV. Canadian experience—V. Mr. Chamberlain’s offer to Canada—VI. Mr. Chamberlain’s offer to Australia.
Proportion of Foreign and Colonial Trade.
Mr. Chamberlain’s main argument for the preferential tariffs, “without which the unity of the Empire cannot be maintained,” was that, “while our commerce with our Colonies is increasing,” that with foreign nations is decreasing,” not seeing that this argument really tells the other way, for if it is developing normally, to develop it artificially is superfluous. As a matter of fact its development is normal and continuous, and its proportion to our trade with foreign nations remains about the same. The sudden increase in our colonial exports in the last period is to be accounted for by the South African war.
Looking at the import and export statistics, we find:—
England only imports from the Colonies a fifth of what she needs. To tax foreign imports in the interests of the Colonies would be to tax four-fifths of her consumption for the advantage of one-fifth. Mr. Chamberlain and his satellites talk about the “Empire feeding itself,” but they take good care not to show how it is to be done in practice. Mr. Chamberlain has given up taxes on raw materials; again and again he says his moderate taxes on wheat, meat, and dairy produce are to be paid by the foreigner. The policy is to say you want to do something but refuse to employ the necessary means to that end, since they might cause some trouble and provoke some discontent. If Mr. Chamberlain really believed that his programme was necessary he would have used the means which Calvin and all real reformers have employed, and of which Voltaire says, “No one succeeds now by proposing anything easy; the hardest master is the most followed.”
He ought to have said to the Lancashire manufacturers and operatives, “To make the Empire self-sufficing you must sacrifice the £1,858,000,000 worth of cotton coming from abroad and be content with the £96,000,000 that came from our colonies and possessions”; to the House of Commons, “To make the Empire self-sufficing, every man, woman, and child in England must reduce his consumption of meat 60 per cent., and of wheat 70 per cent. I ask you to order ‘Imperial Fasting.’”
Mr. Chamberlain proposes to sacrifice two-thirds of our exports for the sake of the other third. Speaking at the Constitutional Club, he said: “I am told that we risk the loss of a market of 300,000,000 foreigners for the sake of one of 10,000,000 of our fellow-countrymen; to that I reply, is it not more worth while to cultivate a trade with 10,000,000 of your fellow-countrymen, who take £10 per head of our products, than the foreigners, who only take a few shillings per head?”
If the 12,000,000 white inhabitants of the self-governing Colonies each took £10, that would give £120,000,000. The following are the figures for our exports to the Colonies:—
This is a good example of the sort of exaggeration in which Mr. Chamberlain habitually indulges. The Colonies have never taken £10 per head of our products; in 1904 they took a little over £4 per head, i.e., 60 per cent., less.
Mr. Chamberlain would penalise the 42,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom for sake of 12,000,000 in the Colonies.
Mr. Chamberlain talks about the German Zollverein, but what is it? The establishment of Free Trade between countries formerly separated by Customs duties. When Mr. Chamberlain talks of a British Customs Union, he is either knowingly or unknowingly using a word which does not apply, since, as he knows, none of the self-governing Colonies would give up the tariffs established with the express purpose of protecting their products against British imports.
He declares that the export of manufactures to foreign countries has declined, while that to the Colonies has increased. The following table from the 1903 Memorandum of the Board of Trade gives the variations in the export of manufactured goods (not including ships):—
As a matter of fact, comparing 1890 and 1902 there is a diminution in our exports to foreign countries. In 1900 there was a decline of £7,000,000, and in 1902 of £18,000,000. This £18,000,000 was exactly balanced by increased exports to the self-governing Colonies. Foreign countries take 58 per cent., Colonies 42 per cent; consequently the foreign market is still 16 per cent. greater than the colonial. The Report of the Imperial Tariff Committee on the Cotton Industry shows that of £73,300,000 in 1903 and £84,000,000 in 1904, the self-governing Colonies took—
i.e., 4·80 per cent. and 5·40 per cent.—a modest share.
India remains. All Protectionists have repeated that India, able to produce raw cotton and obtain a supply of cheap labour, would not only buy no more cottons from England, but would invade Lancashire with Indian cotton goods. Not at all.
In 1904 it imported 400 per cent. more cotton than all the self-governing Colonies put together.
India, not being a self-governing colony, has no say in Mr. Chamberlain’s Colonial Conference. England might justifiably feel a certain anxiety if there were no development of her Colonial exports, but such is not the case. The people of the self-governing Colonies are growing in numbers and in wealth; of English origin, their tastes and customs recommend English goods to them; it is useless to try to substitute political intervention for the normal economic development of the relations between the Colonies and the Mother Country.
What means has Mr. Chamberlain discovered for the increase of the colonial market?
National Labour and the Colonial Market.
In exchange for duties on foreign food the Colonies are to give preferential treatment to English manufactures. Mr. Chamberlain at once assumes that the Colonies, which now take £26,000,000 worth of goods from France and Germany, will not take a pennyworth in future, but confine themselves to English goods. He then goes to the British workman and says, “According to the Board of Trade wages represent half our exports. I give you £13,000,000 in wages; at 30s. a week that means employment for 166,000 men.” This calculation is based upon two fallacious suppositions. Mr. Chamberlain assumes that his policy will not close the more valuable markets, and that England can supply the colonies with the goods they now get from France and Germany.
Canada has given England preferential treatment. What has been the result?
On July 1, 1898, a tariff giving 25 per cent. preference to English goods was issued, and on July 1, 1900, one granting 33 per cent.
These figures show that the influence of preferential tariffs has been rather to increase Canadian exports to England than English exports to Canada; the former having risen 70 per cent, from 1890-1894 to 1898-1902, whereas the latter have only increased 43 per cent. A glorious result, the Protectionist may say, but his enthusiasm becomes wholly unreasonable when we compare Canada’s imports from Great Britain and the United States in million dollars:—
Between 1896 and 1904 for these two countries, Canada’s principal importers have risen 156 per cent. for United States, 84 per cent. United Kingdom.
At the Colonial Conference in 1902 Mr. Chamberlain said, “The results have been a deception.” And they have grown worse. The reasons are clearly given in a Board of Trade Memorandum. The United States enjoy geographical advantages which no preferential tariff can abolish, and in spite of the tariff Canadian policy, remaining Protectionist, taxes manufactures more heavily than raw materials. England sends manufactures to Canada, and the duties on them are still above the average duty on the goods imported from the United States. In 1903 manufactures ready for consumption brought in 24·3 per cent., “luxuries” 53·56 per cent., most of which came from England. In 1903 the average duty on English imports was 17 per cent., while that on American imports was only some 121/2 per cent. The preferential tariff produced the usual recrimination. Canadian manufacturers, pretending to be penalised by English competition, got an Act passed, June 20, 1904, which specified that the minimum tariff on cloth and woollen goods should be at least 30 per cent., and that on ropes at least 20 per cent. In 1904 a special tax on commercial travellers was specially aimed against the English ones. Is all this a preparation for Free Trade within the Empire?
Benefits offered to Canada.
The Canadian Customs returns put down to England’s account all that is sent there; the English figures only count what comes in, and the difference is considerable. According to Canadian returns, it sent in 1904 £4,714,000 worth of wheat; the English returns reduce the total to £3,787,000. The English figures for Canadian imports in 1904 are—
Foodstuffs are 72 per cent. of Canada’s imports to us.
The import of wheat has been 1,550,000 quarters. Admitting that the 2s. a quarter duty on foreign wheat produced its full effect, there would be £155,000 to hand over to Canada. Mr. Chamberlain has never stated what the precise tax on wheat would be, but he has said it would give “a substantial preference to the miller,” i.e., the English miller. He has never explained how the Canadian miller was to benefit. But taking the assessment to be the same as in the case of wheat, and allowing 3 qrs. of grain equal to 2 of flour, we have 642,000 qrs. at 2s., i.e., £64,200. The 5 per cent. tax on meat if it had its full effect would work out and dairy produce for Canada. In a word, to give a great extension to the trade between Canada and the Mother Country, and to tighten the bond of sympathy which results from common interests, Mr. Chamberlain generously offers to its six million inhabitants £739,000, or 2s. 8d. per head, per year. “Think Imperially,” cried Mr. Chamberlain: and the grandeur of his conception is proved by his declaration that the Empire would fall in ruins if the inhabitants of the United Kingdom did not offer the Canadians this monthly dole of 10 farthings a head!
Benefits offered to Australia.
What were the 4,000,000 inhabitants of Australia to receive? According to the Board of Trade, in 1904 Australia exported £23,300,000 to the United Kingdom, as follow:—
The average imports of corn and butter are much lower.
and New Zealand (1904)—
This gives £275,000: at a maximum Australia and New Zealand would receive £700,000. The population of Australia and New Zealand is 5,000,000 in round numbers: this would allow them 2s. 9d. a year per head, or 11 farthings a month. Mr. Chamberlain has told us often enough that the English consumer would only have to pay “farthings” in return for the benefit to the Colonies: he might also have pointed out that the present to the Colonies could only be calculated in farthings—10 a month to Canadians, 11 a month to Australians!