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THE BRITISH TARIFF.
REPORT BY CONSUL DOCKERY, OF LEEDS.
One has become so used to hear custom-houses derided by Englishmen that one naturally concludes there is no such thing in England. Excepting the customs officers, I venture to assert there are not 300 people in England, however intelligent otherwise, who know anything about the amount of duties annually collected, the number of dutiable articles, or the per cent. of duty some of these articles pay. Their ignorance on this subject is truly remarkable. Perhaps they have been too much occupied with the task of correcting the sbortcomings of other nations to pay any attention to their own failings. They pretend to be free traders at home; they claim they have a free breakfast table for the poor man; neither is true.
They affect great repugnance to any country that has a tariff of 50 or 100 per centum ad valorem on any article. In their own country on one article a duty of nearly two thousand per cent. is charged and collected; this article yields them their largest item of customs revenue, and it comes chietly from the United States. Tobacco is the article. It is classed in their own tariff list as an article subject to “ordinary inport duty,” in contradistinction to a “countervailing duty," such, for instance, as the customs duty on spirits, and everything else subject to internal. revenue duty. On tobacco (which is in very general use by the laboring classes in England, and which is consequently of the cheapest kind), the duty ranges, according to moisture, from 87 to 92 cents per pound for the raw or unmanufactured article, and, if manufactured, it pays a duty of from $1.04 to $1.16 per pound. This is called (in England) a revenue duty. I can not see it in that light, as the manipulated article is distinctly charged, say, 20 cents per pound more than the raw article. As a matter of fact, it is so strongly protective that it prevents Americans from successfully competing with the English manufacturer in England, owing to their being handicapped with an additional 20 cents per pound on the manufactured article.
This is an enormous protection. A great part of the tobacco consumed in England is of an inferior quality, its original cost at the American shipping port baving been not more than 6 cents per pound. It pays, if not manipulated, say a 92.cent revenue duty on entering England, and if made into smoking or plug tobacco it pays $1.16, or an additional 21 cents per pound duty. Here we have a revenue duty of, say, fifteen hundred and thirty per cent., and a further strictly protective duty of four hundred per cent., making in all a duty of nineteen hundred and thirty
Cigars pay a duty of $1.32 per pound. I do not give undue prominence to this one article, since it is one from which the large amount of fortythree million dollars of duty were collected last year.
Another item, tea, pays 12 cents per pound duty. This is not a protective duty, but it does not allow the free breakfast table, yet at this rate some of it pays as much as 100 per cent., and the total duty col. lected from this source last year amounted to eighteen millions of dollars. It is more generally consumed in England than in any other civilized
country, and is a requisite of the breakfast table, yet we are told there is a free breakfast table.
Coffee, another article people use at the “breakfast table,” pays a duty of 3 cents per pound, but if “ground, prepared, or in any way manufactured,” it must pay 4 cents per pound, a protection to coffee. millers of 30 odd per cent of duty.
Cocoa, in the raw state, pays 2 cents per pound, but if " ground, prepared, or in any way manufactured,” it pays 4 cents per pound; in other words, the duty on the manufactured article is double that on the raw article.
The foregoing are some of the duties in force in England, and they are sufficient to show that this is not a free-trade country in the full sense of the term. Comparatively to population, more revenue is annually collected at English custom-houses than at those of any other country in the world, excepting the United States, the total amount collected during the past year having reached $96,000,000, while the United States, with nearly twice as large a population, collected $180,000,000 in the same period. Germany, with a much larger population than England, collected from customs $78,000,000.
The chief items of receipt under the head of customs duties for England during the past year were fromChicory.
1, 025, 000 Currants
130, 000 Raisins
775, 000 Rum..
11, 510, 000 Brandy
7,935, 000 Tea...
18, 500,000 Tobacco and snuff'.
43, 000, 000 Wine ...
7,000,000 The following is a list of dutiable articles, viz: Alcohol, ale, beer, brandy, playing cards, chicory, chloroform, chloral hydrate, cigars and cigarettes, cocoa, coffee, collodion, cologné water, cordials, currants, in essence of spruce, ether, indide of ethyl, figs, fig cake, preserved fruit (in spirits), naphtha, pickles, gold and silver plate, plums and prunes, raisins, soap, gin, rum, whisky, all other spirits, wine, and varnish; and, besides these, there are about ninety or one hundred articles, chiefly from America, and principally patent medicines, which are held to be liable to duty at the rate of $3.36 per gallon.
There are in Great Britain and Ireland no less than 133 customs districts, each with a collector or superintendent and subordinates. In London alone the number of customs officers exceeds 1,550, while in Liverpool about 650 are employed, aggregating for the two ports 2,200 officials. These facts and figures do not look well as regards the muchvaunted idea of a free and untrammeled trade! However, they prove conclusively the general idea I have advanced, that there has been only the semblance of free trade in England all the while that the advocates of free trade were so assiduously endeavoring to persuade other nations to adopt their theory, and as practice and theory have not been in accord here, they should not be surprised if their motives are impugued to the extent of asserting that sharp practice was resorted to in order to establish an illimitable monopoly.
Now, I beg to submit a statement of the revenue and expenditure of the British and American Governments, respectively, for the year 187980. For this purpose I take the pound sterling to represent five dollars, and state the items in millions and fractions thereof; which, though not quite exact, approximates closely enough.
Leaving a surplus of 65.915 million dollars.
It will be observed that from three items, viz, stamp duty, land and house tax, and income tax, not charged in America, England collects the sum of $116,000,000 annually.
In truth, everything is taxed either directly or indirectly in this country, every article of foreign or home manufacture being levied upon in some way or other, to help swell the amount of revenue necessary to carry on the government. Owners of land and houses, occupiers of land and houses as well, all professions, all traders, incomes from whatever source, deeds, probates, legacies and successions, bills of exchange and receipts, patents, carriages, horses, man-servants, guns, dogs, and personal property generally, must all pay. The poor tax is another very heavy tax, being levied upon occupiers of houses, and the total amount of this tax during the year 1879 for England and Wales was $65,000,000, or more than $2.50 per head of population. More than one-third of this amount was expended for other purposes than the relief of the poor, the payments towards country, borough, and police rate, to highway and school boards having amounted to upwards of $22,000,000. The actual relief to the poor during the year amounted to $1.55 per head of population, and the number of paupers was 813,000.
Until a fortnight ago there was a prospect of a good harvest throughout the United Kingdom, but since then bope has been dissipated by continued bad weather, and we may expect as the result of another short and bad grain crop to hear of more farmers ruined, more farms thrown up, a greater depression in trade, a large emigration, and a more fully developed fair trade agitation than we liave had.
Where this agitation will end I do not presume to say, but from such observations as I have been able to make I do not think it can accomplish anything that may be of permanent good in the country, because the evil that has been done is irremediable. As a consequence, British commercial interests must continue to decline, and while I regret the prospect I take consolation in the knowleilge that American commercial interests are destined to be inversely affected.
A. V. DOCKERY,
Consul, UNITED STATES CONSULATE,
Leeds, September 1, 1881.
BRITISH “FREE TRADE AND FAIR TRADE."
* Doubt is said to be the key to knowledge. I am convinced the key is then in a fair way to being discovered, but there is still a master key to the situation which will necessitate a very long voyage of discovery, unless its hiding place be sought in quite a different spirit to that which has prevailed in this country during the past thirty years, where every man's soul has been mortgaged as it were to a single idea-self.
Trade depression has now existed several years, and appears to get no better; indeed it is now assuming very large proportions, having become to a certain extent chronic. This has led to agitation against free trade under the several names of Fair Trade, Reciprocity, and Protection, terms nearly synonymous, whichi agitation is daily growing in extent and in bitterness.
The press is full of a correspondence which shows that the idea of protection is widely spread. The protectionist puts his case in these words:
To buy cheap is excellent, no doubt; but unless you are able to sell dear it is of very little use to you. Men cannot live by buying alone. And we have, as a matter of fact, got now to a stage when we find it hard to sell. We are being beaten out of the world's markets, not, as we ought to be, by free-trade nations, but by protectionist nations. We struggle and wriggle with their tariff's and seek to make treaties of commerce that shall lighten those cariffs. We demand concessions; and the foreigner smiles, for we have nothing to give in return.
The world is against us. Wherever we turn there is a prohibitory tariff, especially, and of malice prepense, directed against our special manufacturers.
What, then, are we to do? There is, indeed, a weapon with which we, too, may tight; that is, a tariff of our own. But then there comes a free trader and says, “This weapon is sharp; you may cut your own fingers with it. Do not meddle with edge tovls. Bure your breast and in time the foreigner will yield to the force of reason."
Is not this pretty!
Free trade might be a first rate thing in an unreal or communistic world, but it will not do in ours. Policy governs nations as well as indi. viduals, and it is quite possible that there should be all policy and no principle in some special application of free trade, which I must say would constitute a very discreditable exception. England is really such an exception.
Free trade really meant to her nothing less than protection, because she was then in the full swing of manufacturing prosperity and supremacy. She excelled every other nation in all the great manufacturing industries; and by means of a well-conceived system of wars, resulting in the establishment of numerous colonies affording new markets, aided by her large quantity of improved machinery and her inexhaustible supply of coal, she had managed virtually to control the markets of the world.
To a country like this free trade was a splendid policy, and had other countries adopted it she would certainly have continued to benefit to their detriment, for it would have resulted in the establishment of the most gigantic monopoly the world ever saw.
“ Protection" is far too mild a term to apply to such a monopoly as that would have been.
The great free-trade theory principle in truth meant cruel monopoly, and artful as were the means adopted to obtain this object, its failure has been signally ignominious.
So long as no serious obstacle in the shape of a protective tariff was encountered, English manufacturers continued to thrive, and with the acquisition of wealth many of them affected to turn themselves into country gentlemen for the sake of social standing, the effect of which was an increase in the value of land and, consequently, rents, and a period of general inflation followed.
Other countries not only refused to listen to the free trader, but set to work to more effectually protect their own small but growing industries, taking advantage of all open markets and giving nothing in return. In time they were able to manufacture enough to supply the home markets, and having these practically safe, they turned their attention abroad, and in seeking an outlet for their surplus in productions they came into competition with England. On the other hand, England had been undergoing a great change; rents had become so high that farmers were ruined or else farms remained uplet, which, with a succes. sion of bad harvests, caused large deficiencies in the food product, to be made good by importation. The cost of the necessaries of life had be. come higher; new markets for her manufactures were difficult to find; the quality of the manufactures had deteriorated, and labor bad become uncertain and less productive. This was the state of affairs when she