THE CONSTANCE BARNICOAT PRIZE ESSAY.
By ARTHUR FAIR.
The following Essay won the Prize at the inaugural Competition held last December. It will be remembered that, in order to encourage the study of contemporary worldhistorv, Miss Constance Barnicoat offers an Annual Prize of Three Pounds te the students of Nelson College over the age of fifteen for the best Essay on the man or woman who the writer thinks has made the best use of his or her life during the past year. By special request from Miss Barnicoat the Essay is published in this Magazine.
Mffl 0 any person scanning the <§iitJl events of the year and judgHy ing the most important proposals on foot and their 5^ 7 ' originators, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain would stand conspicuously apart from all other politicians by reason of his energy <and enthusiasm. He has declared a policy which has stirred not only England and the British Empire, but also the whole world. The contrast, however, lies here. While his proposals are hailed with delight by all the colonies and by the majority of Englishmen, they are received with exceeding great bitterness by all the other great commercial states, such as Germany, the United States of America and Russia. In fact, there is no better testimony as to the efficiency of Mr. Chamberlain' s proposals than the hatred and bitterness with which our rivals greet them. Most of them recognise that the adoption of preferential trade is justified, but all agree in declaring it prejudicial to their owru welfare. " From their deeds shall ye know them I" Yes ! from the Colonial Secretary's deeds is he known, and for his deeds is he honoured. By all his works is he known to be a great politician. Sprung from the sturdy, industrious " middle-class/ he is a descendant of a hard-working, independent line. Its priceless heritage of manliness and integrity, and also that firm self-reliance, without self-
conceit, which is, undoubtedly, so necessary to a statesman, have descended on him. Following out the traditions of his fathers he himself worked in his mills alongside the poorest artisan. He busied himself with their work and saw their life. This information being certain and reliable was invaluable to him in later years and served to give him. that knowledge which is necessary to a proper treatment of workmen' s difficulties. Rising step by step, he became first Councillor, then Mayor of Birmingham. There his public spirit was so prominent that he was requested to stand for Parliament, and was elected member in 1876. He proved himself a zealous, painstaking and reliable member, and soon was elected leader of the Liberal Unionists' party in the House of Commons. In 1895 he accepted the post of Colonial Secretary much to the surprise of many of his supporters ; for this post had been an unimportant one. But Mr. Chamberlain had reasons for accepting it as he told his constituents. Hitherto, the position of Colonial Secretary had been anything but an important one. For a great number of the inhabitants of England were ignorant of the resources and extent of the colonies. Many imagined them to be still in a primitive state. None saw the, vast possibilities that lay before them. They could not acknowledge their power
or wealth, for as yet they had none. But they could have helped and encouraged them, and they did not. They could not see in those far-dis-tant shores — in the forests .of New Zealand and the snow-capped peaks of Canada — the home of a powerful nation and the cradle of a new and far-reaching dominion. They did not see the mighty future stretching vast and illimitable before them. An Empire was springing up, and they did not perceive it. Their power was growing greater and greater, their lands wider and wider, and their ambitions nobler and nobler ; but they did not know it. They desired to lop off these useless appendages, and free themselves from what seemed to them to be shackles binding them. Even as late as 1896, Mr. Gladstone showed his want of faith in the Colonies. In that year, he said, " I have always maintained that we are bound by ties of honour and conscience to our Colonies. But the idea that Colonies add to the strength of the Mother-country appears to me to be as dark a superstition as any that existed in the Middle Ages." This was the cry. They were a burden continually — a nuisance to protect and a bugbear to help. Canada was not then famed for her golden crops nor Australia for her golden streams. On New Zealand's plains were not as yet the flocks of sheep which later dotted its green fields.
When Mr. Chamberlain stepped into his position at the Colonial office he had no desire to carry on his work in the same manner as his predecessors. He did it in his own way, and devoted all his energies to the task just as he had done in his) business life. He brought the same untiring spirit to bear on his public work. The Colonies received that encouragement and. that loyal sym-' pathy and help which in later days they proved only too willing to reciprocate. For has not every colonist alike a never-dying love for his birth-place ? Does he not think tenderly of the far-distant " Home"? What memories does that word re-
Vol. IX.— No. 5.— 25
call ! What sweet scenes of childhood ! Whether from the rugged Orkneys, the green fields of Kent, or the smiling lakes of Killarney there/ is still within each heart, beneath each rugged exterior, a love, a longing for and an allegiance to the Mother-country which Time cannot decay nor the procession of the ap"es destroy. Mr. Chamberlain was not the first to perceive this, but he certainly was the first to stee what was the logical conclusion to this reasoning. He himself said that the world was not ruled by interest but by sentiment, and he understood how much better it was to be ruled by sentiment than by ties of interest. He saw that the ties of sentiment even more than the ties of interest demanded imperatively the closer attachment of the Colonies to the Mother-land. He saw that the earth was now commanded not by aggregations of territory but by fellowship, by kinship, and by mutual ties which hold fast, unbreakable, come calm, come storm. Therefore he set out on his mighty work of combining the children of Britain. With friendly help, with kind encouragement and indomitable perseverance he bound the colonies together, and soon the Downing Street, that a few years before had been either hated or despised, began to be looked to with more respect and hope. These were the first fruits of his work.
Link by link the chain was forged,, and slowly but steadily the colonies? grew in wealth and strength. Gradually but surely they developed their resources, and soon the World with startled gaze saw a new Empire—a new dominion springing up. They saw with shame and inward dismay the increasing strength of the British race. Their shores were spreading, their power growing. They had pluck, perseverance, and devoutness. Here was a nation marked out by the hand of God for supremacy. " Beneath whose flag the trader of every land could uncord his bales unhindered, and the devout of all creeds pray in their
own accents to their Maker, unafraid/ Here was a new nation and a new principle clamouring for recognition. Should England accord them a just audience, or should she reject them ? This was a question which had for some time been agitating the minds of the people. It was a question which required to be answered. What would the response be ?
While all the world hesitated, while England did not dare to commit herself, Mr. Chamberlain had been studying the question, and had made his decision with characteristic boldness and correctness. He declared in unhesitating accents his policy. He assisted the Colonies in every possible way. He helped their finances ; he encouraged their trade; he forwarded their industries. Tie Colonial-office work grew like a mushroom, and at its head was this ever-busy, indefatigable man. He was always working, always improving. He set the Colonies of the West of Africa, whose finances were tottering, and whose liabilities were entirely out of proportion to their developed resources, on a sound financial basis ; and they _ stand today as a monument to his perseverance and success.
But he did not stop at helping all people within the bounds of the British Empire. He held that every person with British blood in his veins, and English parents, had a claim on the protection of Great Britain. Whether separated by tensor thousands of miles from the British Isles, they were still entitled to this protection. He held that blood was stronger thaii water, and the ties of kinship more binding than residence. Consequently, when, a call came across the waters from, the Transvaal, he did not hesitate to respond to it. As the Transvaal executive could not be persuaded to give the franchise willingly, he appealed to war, and everyone knows the end. In 1902 the Boers surrendered, and the Transvaal Free State became the Transrvaal Colony. But sedition and conspiracy were
seething all over the country. Parties of malcontents demanded reconsideration of the terms, and bombarded the Colonial office with petitions ans grievances— with complaints and demands which were very hard to handle, and very difficult to decide. Complaints and counter-complaints came in, accusations and tales and counter-accusa-tions, till the Colonial Secretary decided that it would be better for him to go and see and hear for hfmself what was being said and done. So he went out in the " Good Hope/ and arrived in Pretoria on January 3rd, 1903. There began his first work for the year.
The complaining party, who had during 1 the past year been troubling him with their woes and complaints, had arranged a splendid reception for him. They came in full force prepared to combat every word, and to; dispute over the minutest point. They also presented him with a memorial or petition. This, according to auditors, was one of the most impudent documents ever put forward. It asked him to confer everything which they before had refused to give to the Outlanders. It requested the English to give more money. It asked for the return of irreconcilables. It asked for the pardon of the rebels of Cape Colony. It did not in one word or one sentence acknowledge the generosity or long- suffering of the English Government.
'For such a document as this, Mr. Chamberlain had criticisms in no unmeasured tones. fle rose with a peculiar smile on his lips, and a peculiar tone in his voice. The burghers did not grasp his intentions at first, but as each cold, care-fully-worded, satirical sentence was translated to them, they winced in their seats. They saw they had met a master-mind. They perceived that here was a man with a quick power of decision and action. They saw that they would get their bond and no more. Mr. Chamberlain told them coldly and carefully how impossible were their demands, how
inflexible the Mother-land. She had conceded as much as possible, she could not give any more. And haggard De Wet, and carefully-groomed Botha, felt in each one of those clear-cut, pitiless words, ihe deathknell to their hopes and ambitions.
At Johannesberg, the Peace-maker had! a chat with the mine- owners, and came to an amicable arrangement for taxes on the mines. Here was the most loyal welcome accorded him. Afterwards, at Bloemfontein, • the delegates with a zeal worthy of a better cause, attacked him again. They brought up all the demands which had been refused at Johannesberg. In reply, the Peacemaker, in his most, cutting tones, expressed his surprise .and annoyance at their requests. He repeated in more emphatic terms his already most emphatic answer. The Colonies would remain under the Crown till all disaffection had settled down. He was not going to risk another possible war. When they had proved their loyalty they should be free, and not before. The irreconcilahles would remain in prison till they were content to be British citizens.
In. all his speeches, Mr. Chamberlain had shown to South Africa his determination to settle the question definitely. His firmness did an incredible amount towards steadying, matters in a truculent country. They saw that what he said he meant. And he told them to forget the past^" Be it bad or good, it is the past, and the only remedy for past, injuries is courage, cheerfulness, and mutual respect." He told theni that the day .of small States was past. Now was the time for mighty empires. And the one of which they formed part was the mightiest and freest. To this they acquiesced, albeit rather unwillingly, and 'settled down to bear whatever ills came to them, and to look cheerfully and hopefully to the future. This was the first work of Mr. Chamberlain.
But during this time he had another and greater proposal pre-
pared. He had a scheme for the consolidation of British power throughout the world. A. mighty plan that was presently to thrill through the whole world, and to cause mighty nations to tremble and threaten. A scheme which was to divide England into two great parties, and set the whole collection: of Colonies eager with anticipation, was in preparation. He was getting in readiness for the preferential trade campaign. He had studied the problem, for many years. He had seen the flow of trade between the Mother-land and the Colonies, and carefully watched the trend of it. The iron and steel manufactures were carried out to the Colonies, and wool, wheat, cotton and gold brought home. They were united by sentiment and love to their children. But the ties of, commercial union were growing weaker. While their loyalty was tested, and' passed the test in the case of the Boer war, their trade with their kin was decreasing. The cause of this decrease was to be found in many things. The material could be supplied more cheaply by the United States and by Germany. This was owing to several reasons. In the first place, the taxes which were levied to sustain and continue the Boer :war had raised the cost of living. The drain on the best-fitted physical men in the country had raised the wages and caused more incompetent men to be employed. Hence the cost of production was greatly increased, and with the additional cost of living, combined to make all articles of manufacture higher. Money was also at a high rate of interest, so that the total cost of production was greatly increased. The work-people were also protected by fairer and more just lawa than held either in Germany and United States. Their wages were higher and their hours were shorter than those of their competitors. Then the trade was greatly injured by the " dumping/ This was the
system of disposing of surplus products in England. When manufacturers found that the supply, exceeded the demand in their own markets, they immediately shipped the surplus to England, to be disposed of there at a slight profit on the ■cost of production. They must keep on producing, for if they do not a great deal of their capital is lying idle, and it ,is better to produce at a small profit than to have a lot of useless capital. But to reduce the price in their ,own immediate market would be madness ; so they reduce it in someone else's— England's for preference, , because that is the only unprotected place. All the others have protective tariffs high ■enough to prevent this " dumping/ But England, as Mr. Chamberlain ■says, "is .the dumping-ground of all nations."
So here the difficulty lies. England, owing- to the system of Free Trade introduced by Cobden and Bright, lies helpless at the mercy of the foreign exporter. She cannot •retaliate, for they all have high protective tariffs. ' She cannot stop the evil, for she has Free Trade. This policy of Cobden and Bright's was very good and very efficient when proposed, since at 'that time England was the chief manufacturing country, and her rivals had not yet emerged. It was quite right to let the corn in free to allow the labouring classes to live cheaply at that time. Then the new grain-pro-ducing countries had not been opened up. Then the Colonies had not •attained a celebrity as wheatgrowers. The only grain-raising countries were those of Europe, and their supply was limited and dependent on the European weather. The reformers did not foresee that England would be the only country to adopt their principles. Their plans were founded on the supposition that all countries would adopt the free trade .principles, and also that England would remain the supreme manufacturing power.. They had not the prophetic vision to foretell the rise'of the Colonies, and of
America and Germany as manufacturing powers. Their views were only human, and were therefore mutable. Some of the free trade advocates seem to think that these two men had divine authority for what they wrote and spoke. They treat their opinions as if they held good for eternity, and are not to be altered or amended.
But the Colonial Secretary was not one of these. He saw that the commercial condition of the whole world had changed since those views were advanced. . He saw liow the Colonies and Germany and United States had risen to power. He siaw how Britain's trade had diminished. Like the practical man he H he immediately set about improving it. For this purpose he introduced the scheme that is now known as the Preferential Trade proposals.
These proposals had -been fully discussed with the Premiers at the Colonial Conference in 1903. And at that conference resolutions were passed without dissentient voice declaring that it would stimulate and facilitate intercourse between the Colonies and England if preferential treatment were granted. Several practical proposals were put sur le tapis, but very few were carried. The Right Honourable Joseph Chamber, am, Secretary of State for the Colonies, intimated that the time was not , yet ripe for the Mother-land to grant . the concessions ; \ but Sir Wilfred Laurier> Premier of Canada, introduced the scheme into Canada, a 33i per cent, preference for English goods coming into Canada, and also a further reduction of the duties on English goods. He also proposed to raise the tariff on foreign goods. Mr. Seddon, in a very loyal speech, declared that New Zealand, was quite willing to allow a ten per cent, preference duty on all EnglHi goods, .and promised to introduce a bill to deal with the matter in the course of the present sitting of Parliament. The other Colonies expressed their satisfaction at the proposals, and said that they
agreed in the main. But they desired further time to think of it and obtain statistics, etc.
But the crowning stroke to the Preferential Trade party's policy was struck in September, 1903, when Mr. Chamberlain declared to the House of Commons his belief in the efficacy of Preferential Trade, and gave them an outline of his main principles. These included a slight tax (2s. a quarter) on all foreign wheat and grain, and a preference duty on a-11 Colonial produce.
The frank declaration of his principles of course led to a terrible debate on the subject. The Free-traders rose in all their wrath to enquire whether the principles, that had made England what it was, were to be abandoned ? They wanted to know whether Mr. Balfour, the Prime Minister, was in accordance with the Colonial Secretary .? And if so, what were to be his plans for the future ? In fact, the proposals became the question of the hour. They were eagerly discussed everywhere, and the Ministry seemed to be divided on this point. Mr. Balfour supported his follower in part, but declared that he had no " settled convictions "on the matter. An " enquiry " was being set on foot as to the financial condition of the country and the Colonies. He said also that an enquiry into the trade would be made.
During- this time, Mr. Chamberlam's policy was fiercely attacked and his proposals criticised. The cry, " dear bread !" was raised, and it was said that the course undertaken by him was calculated to raise the price of living, and that the poor man was being' taxed. Mr. CJiamberlain replied to this criticism by stating that the tax on wheat and meat would be only slight. A small tax like that proposed to be levied came on the foreign producer. If he desired the market, he would lower his prices. That had been proved by previous experience. But in addition to this, the taxes that were added, to the
wheat would be taken from o;ther staple commodities, such as tea, cocoa and coffee. " Besides/ said these carpers, " will we not rouse the hostility of other nations ? Will they not raise their taxes against Britain ? Will not Germany withdraw us from the Favoured-nations treatment 1" Evidently these questioners do not know what the Favoured-nation-treatment is. Germany, when she extended this favour to Great Britain, only promises not to tax her any more than any other nation. But in the commodities which she sells England is only competed against by the United States of America, and this country is too far away to be a formidable rival. Well, the way England obtains the tax on her manufactured goods is through France. This latter, when making a treaty with Germany, reduces as far as possible by mutual concessions, the duty imposed by Germany on her claret, silk and other principal exports. Of course, not having a great export of machinery and woollens-, she does not care how high the duty is on those. So she allows them to remain high, and England has toacquiesce. For, she can make no bargain since her market is open to all comers.
They also say the other countries will raise their tariff against England. But there is considerable doubt about this. Most of them are as high as possible at present, and those articles on which there are no 1 duties are necessary to the welfare of the country. They cannot do without them, and as for raising) the tariff, that would be too severe a blow to their own interests to deserve consideration.
In desperation tlie Free-traders resort to the argument that such a system would breed laziness and idleness. They say that such a tariff would be a kind of wall enclosing a garden of lotos-eaters. Such arguments betray the shallowness of their adherents. For it is evident that the preferential tariff
would not be so high as to produce such a result. On reaching such a pitch it would be immediately reduced.
Such were some of the arguments advanced against, Mr. Chamberlain's scheme, and in some such manner were they met. But the opposition to his scheme grew great. Minister turned against minister, and member against member, till the parties grew discordant and the Opposition grew joyful. At last at the same time three ministers resigned in order to express their approval or disapproval of the Government's policy. These were Ritchie, Hamilton, and Joseph Chamberlain. The latter resigned in order to leave the hands of the Government more free to treat of the preferential trade policy. He then proceeded to issue pamphlets explaining his policy and declaring his belief. Then, in response to the voice of the masses, he determined to lecture throughout the whole of England. He chose the main towns, and was everywhere greeted with huge audiences and packed halls. He had first to combat the theory that his policy would raise the price of 'bread and of living. This he has done, and is still doing, to many audiences. His
followers are growing, his beliefs impressing more and more, and there is now within definite sight, victory. Nearly all of the Colonies have supported him, especially Canada and New Zealand. Mr. Seddon, Premier of the latter colony, has carried through a Bill for Preferential Trade with regard to New Zealand. Slowly, surely, and firmly, the idea of such a scheme is seizing England — is growing, upon the Empire. Soon the ultimate goal will be reached. If within the next few years we see the-e-nd attained, if we see an Empire bound together by unbreakable bonds and turning a steadfast and calm face to every trouble, then will Mr. Chamberlain's work be fulfilled. A glorious Empire will be formed with Liberty and Freedom for its motto. Justice will be given to rich and poor alike, to high and low, to powerful and powerless. Then does it not behove us to fall on our knees and beseech the Lord of all Power and Might 1 to bless and preserve us, to strengthen and keep us. Then shall our prayer be "Lord God of Hosts! Be with us yet, Lest we forget, Lest we forget !
Permanent link to this item
THE CONSTANCE BARNICOAT PRIZE ESSAY., New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, 1 February 1904
THE CONSTANCE BARNICOAT PRIZE ESSAY. New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, 1 February 1904
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.