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The following table illustrates the advance of wages made relatively in shore and sea life :
To pay higher wages in British ships is now impossible ; the same may be said indeed of any reform that calls for expenditure on the part of the shipowner. When once it is recognised that the important thing is not so much what wages are paid for, as where they come from, it will not be difficult to see the truth of this statement. The capitalist shipowner is the wage fund of the seaman. So long as the shipowner lives, so long does the wage fund last, and is available for the purchase of labour. If through good trade the shipowner grows rich, the wage fund grows with him ; if through a surplus of tonnage, severe competition, or trade depression, he grows poorer, the wage fund dwindles too. The main point then is to preserve the wage fund at the back of the shipowner; and having done that, the wage-earners have ample power through combination to ensure that they get their share of 'the better times' that follow.
If British shipowners were supported, in times of need, by a policy possessing retaliatory power against those nations which sought to ruin their trade by artificial means, there can be little hesitation in saying that seafaring would become more popular as it became more profitable, and would once again resume its position as the calling of those who should form the backbone of the navy and the nation.
The progress of British shipping forms an interesting study. In short, it may be said that prior to 1805 Britain maintained her supremacy through the zeal and courage of her naval commanders ; subsequent to Trafalgar through the navigation laws—in other words, through legislative prohibition to import goods to British shores in foreign ships. After the repeal of the navigation laws in 1854, a set-back occurred to British shipping, with a concurrent augmentation in foreign shipping. Indeed, so great was the impetus given to alien shipping by the repeal that the foreign tonnage visiting British ports was almost doubled in a decade.
Then came the introduction of iron in place of wood for shipbuilding, which restored once more to Britain her leading position as a maritime power.
When ships were built of wood, and the motive power was sail, timber had to be imported with which to build the vessels, as also the hemp, cordage, and flax for setting up the rigging and sails. ..
But when iron came to be used, our shipbuilders were able to depend upon home supplies of iron ore, lime, and coal, all of which are found in the United Kingdom. Other nations might be able to build wooden ships cheaper than we; but none could compete in the price of an iron or steel steamer. Hence the dawn of the iron age enabled Britain to recover her decline following on the repeal of the navigation laws.
The annexed figures, gleaned from a paper read before the Royal Statistical Society by Sir John Glover, will show the varying changes as described.
Table showing percentage of foreign tonnage as compared with British tonnage entered and cleared in British ports :
Per cent. Per cent. 1848 (Previous to the repeal of the navigation laws) 288 712 1860 (Effect of the repeal) .
. . . . . 41:8 58.2
. . . . . 29.8 70-2 With the greater portion of the world's carrying power' in British hands, it is not surprising that British trade should have developed in greater proportion, and with more rapidity, than the commerce of all other nations.
During the twenty years between 1860 and 1880 railway transport was still in the first stage of development. Carriage by sea for goods in quantity was by far the cheapest and most convenient mode of transport. British shipowners were able by reason of earning 'double freights' (outward as well as inward cargoes) to allow of low cost of carriage for home merchandise. Hence British merchants, through British maritime supremacy, were able to exploit their wares in foreign and neutral markets with such advantages in their favour as prohibited all other nations from competition.
In the early days of continental manufacturing activity there was a tremendous demand for British coal, which export formed à paying ballast cargo, and enabled vessels to return with “imports' of raw material at a lower rate of freight than they would otherwise have been able to do. But it seems doubtful whether coal will long continue as a staple export of this country. As new fuels and more economical methods of propulsion are devised, the demand for coal will be restricted, and what demand there is will be more readily and more cheaply supplied from foreign or colonial pits than from those in the United Kingdom.
Already Germany, the United States of America, Australia, Belgium, Japan, India, Natal, and New Zealand export coal in everincreasing quantities.
This cheapness given by 'export cargoes' to imports has a great and beneficial effect upon the well-being of the people, both as regards their food and employment; and it is essential for the continued pre
valence of 'cheapness,' and for the competitive power of the mercantile marine, that 'export cargoes' of some sort should be found for British shipping. If it is not permanently possible to put our trust in coal, then we should strive all we can to develop our manufactures.
Of recent years there has been a marked increase in the amount of competitive foreign tonnage afloat, mainly due to the development of foreign shipbuilding. One result is that a distinct advance has taken place in regard to the amount of carrying which certain nations do of their own trade.
The following table gives an idea of this, showing as it does the percentage of tonnage entered and cleared under the national flag of the total tonnage entered and cleared in the ports of the countries named, and also showing the percentage of British tonnage entered and cleared in the same ports.
The point to be noted is that as foreign tonnage increased and came into competition with British tonnage, the latter had to give way.
When one remembers that there is a limit to the demand for carrying capacity in the world, and that the favour of a cargo falls to the vessel that will carry it at the lowest rate of freight, it is not surprising that some people should question whether, if things go on as they are going now without alteration or change, the dominating position of British shipping may not be seriously undermined.
In times gone by we obtained our strength from within the United Kingdom-from iron ore and coal. But these old-time buttresses have lost their efficacy. Let us alter our policy and draw our strength to-day from an empire united commercially.' Let us aim at a federation framed not merely in regard to personal or insular prosperity, but having as its basis the advancement and defence of trade on broad and reciprocal lines, and which we should be ready to share with all who meet us in freedom and fairness.
Some may object to reciprocal measures because they see in them a leaning towards protection. Others oppose such reform because they do not imagine it can benefit this or that industry. And others, again, because they do not believe in adapting the policy of their day to suit the circumstances of their time ; trusting rather to fortune to bring all things right in the end.
To such as these the words of Alexander Hamilton must come with
disconcerting emphasis, for he says : ‘It is too much characteristic of our national temper to be ingenious in finding out and magnifying the minutest disadvantages ; and to reject measures of evident utility, even of necessity, to avoid trivial and sometimes imaginary evils. We seem not to reflect that in human society there is scarcely any plan, however salutary to the whole and to every part, by the share each has in the common prosperity, but in one way or another, and under particular circumstances, will operate more to the benefit of some parts than of others. Unless we can overcome this narrow disposition, and learn to estimate measures by their general tendencies, we shall never be a great or a happy people, if we remain a people
THE LIBERAL PRESS
To one who, for some time past, has not only been cultivating a constituency of his own, but has, in addition, been paying electioneering visits to other constituencies, the least satisfactory feature of the Liberal position in the country is the inefficiency of its press. It is a parrot cry-particularly on the part of those having no great depth of conviction themselves—that the press has ceased to influence the country; that people merely read papers for their news, and not for their opinions; and that, in short, conductors of newspapers and their leader-writers are, as professed guides and teachers, found out and played out. This is probably no more true nowadays than it has been since organs of public opinion existed. My own experience has convinced me that the man who does not read opinions in daily or weekly papers and reviews is, in nine cases out of ten, a man having neither knowledge nor views on public questions ; in the tenth case his views are a mere collection of crudities or a reflection of those he hears expressed around him, in office, workshop, factory, public conveyance, or club. They have no fixed quality, they are never informed, and have rarely even the vitality of prejudices. The point indeed is hardly worth labouring, and no one who takes the trouble to test the origin of the average man's views can fail to find that they spring from the acceptance or the rejection of the opinions laid down in newspapers.
How could it be otherwise ? What I find the normal busy man does not read in the newspapers are the Parliamentary reports, not even in the attenuated form in which they are given in many of the Tory organs, and in all the so-called leading Liberal papers—with the commendable exception of one or two of the principal provincial journals. For this abstention the average man is certainly not to be blamed, the attempt-if it may even be dignified by the name of an attempt to pack into a couple of columns reports of discussions ranging over a wide variety of subjects, and lasting perhaps some eight hours, merely resulting in a blurred impression that conveys little or no meaning to the man who brings no special knowledge to their perusal. Even the gentlemen whose mission it is, from the