V - Why Is It that Protection Is Required

The object of the colonial system was that of ``raising up a nation of customers,'' a project ``fit only,'' says Adam Smith, ``for a nation of shopkeepers.'' He was, however, inclined to think, that even for them it was unfit, although ``extremely fit for a nation whose government was influenced by shopkeepers.'' As early as the period immediately following the Revolution of 1688, we find the shopkeeping influence exerted for the ``discouragement'' of the woolens manufacture of Ireland; and while the people of that unfortunate country were thus prevented from converting their own wool into cloth, they were by other laws prevented from making any exchanges with the fellow-subjects in other colonies, unless through the medium of English ports and English ``shopkeepers.''

Such being the case, it was little likely that any efforts at combination of exertion among distant colonists, for rendering labour more productive of the conveniences and comforts of life, should escape the jealous eyes of men whose shopkeeping instincts had prompted them to the adoption of such measures in regard to nearer ones. The first attempt at manufacturing any species of cloth in the American provinces was followed by interference on the part of the British legislature. In 1710, the House of Commons declared, ``that the erecting of manufactories in the colonies had a tendency to lessen their dependence upon Great Britain.'' Soon afterwards complaints were made to Parliament, that the colonists were setting up manufactories for themselves, and the House of Commons ordered the Board of Trade to report upon the subject, which was done at length. In 1732, the exportation of hats from province to province was prohibited, and the number of apprentices to be taken by hatters was limited. In 1750, the erection of any mill or other engine for splitting or rolling iron was prohibited; but pig-iron was allowed to be imported into England duty-free, that it might then be manufactured and sent back again. At a later period, Lord Chatham declared, that he would not allow the colonists to make even a hob-nail for themselves....

We see thus, that the whole legislation of Great Britain, on this subject, has been directed to the one great object of preventing the people of her colonies, and those of independent nations, from obtaining the machinery necessary to enable them to combine their exertions for the purpose of obtaining cloth or iron, and thus {compelling} them to bring to her their raw materials, that she might convert them into the forms that fitted them for consumption, and then return to the producers a portion of them, burdened with great cost for transportation, and heavy charges for the work of conversion. We see, too, that notwithstanding the revocation of a part of the system, it is still discretionary with the Board of Trade, whether or not they will permit the export of machinery of any description. (pp. 52-53)

...The whole system [of British free trade] has for its object an increase in the number of persons that are to intervene between the producer and the consumer -- living on the product of the land and labour of others, diminishing the power of the first, and increasing the number of the last; and thus it is that Ireland is compelled to waste more labour annually than would be required to produce, thrice over, all the iron, and convert into cloth all the cotton and wool manufactured in England. The poverty of producers exists nearly in the ratio in which they are compelled to make their exchanges in the market of Great Britain....

The manufacturers of India have been ruined, and that great country is gradually and certainly deteriorating and becoming depopulated, to the surprise of those people of England who are familiar with its vast advantages, and who do not understand the destructive character of their own system. (p. 61)

The impoverishing effects of the system were early obvious, and to the endeavour to account for the increasing difficulty of obtaining food where the whole action of the laws tended to increase the number of consumers of food and to diminish the number of producers, was due the invention of the Malthusian theory of population, now half a century old. That was followed by the Ricardo doctrine of Rent, which accounted for the scarcity of food by asserting, as a fact, that men always commenced the work of cultivation on rich soils, and that as population increased they were obliged to resort to poorer ones, yielding a constantly diminishing return to labour, and producing a constant necessity for separating from each other, if they would obtain a sufficiency of food. Upon this theory is based the whole English politico-economical system. Population is first supposed to be superabundant, when in scarcely any part of the earth could the labour of the same number of persons that now constitute the population of England obtain even one-half the same return. Next, it is supposed that men who fly from England go always to the cultivation of rich soils, and therefore everything is done to expel population. Lastly, it is held that their true policy when abroad is to devote all their labour to the cultivation of those rich soils, sending the produce to England that it may be converted into cloth and iron, and they are cautioned against any interference with perfect freedom of trade as ``a war upon labour and capital.''

Colonization is urged on all hands, and all unite in the effort to force emigration in the direction needed to raise up ``colonies of customers.'' It is impossible to read any work on the subject without being struck by the prevalence of this ``shopkeeping'' idea. It is seen everywhere. Hungary was to be supported in her efforts for the establishment of her independence, because she was willing to have free trade, and thus make a market for British manufactures. The tendency of the Ricardo-Malthusian system to produce intensity of selfishness was never more strikingly manifested than on that occasion. (pp. 63-64)

We thus have here, first, a system that is unsound and unnatural, and second, a theory invented for the purpose of accounting for the poverty and wretchedness which are its necessary results. The miseries of Ireland are charged to over-population, although millions of acres of the richest soils of the kingdom are waiting drainage to take their place among the most productive in the world, and although the Irish are compelled to waste more labour than would pay, many times over, for all the cloth and iron they consume. The wretchedness of Scotland is charged to over-population when a large portion of the land is so tied up by entails as to forbid improvement, and almost forbid cultivation. The difficulty of obtaining food in England is ascribed to over-population, when throughout the kingdom a large portion of the land is occupied as pleasure grounds, by men whose fortunes are due to the system which has ruined Ireland and India. Over-population is the ready excuse for all the evils of a vicious system, and so will it continue to be until that system shall see its end... (pp. 64-65)