« ПретходнаНастави »
of trade was believed to be unfavourable to Great Britain.' Here we almost seem to be reading the language of tariffreform pamphlets of the twentieth century.
The non-enumerated commodities could originally be exported from the colonies to all parts of the world, subject to the condition above mentioned with regard to the employment of British ships. But the classification of enumerated and non-enumerated articles was varied from time to time; and by an Act passed in the sixth year of the reign of George III. the export of all non-enumerated articles was limited, so far as the European market was concerned, to countries lying south of Cape Finisterre. On this last restriction Adam Smith comments:
'The parts of Europe which lie south of Cape Finisterre are not manufacturing countries, and we were less jealous of the colony ships carrying home from them any manufactures which could interfere with our own.'
While describing these restrictions and their effect upon the value of colonial produce, Adam Smith points out that in certain other directions the colonies were allowed to enjoy a very wide liberty in matters of trade. In particular he refers to the complete freedom of trade which the American colonies enjoyed with the British West Indies to their immense mutual advantage. But he adds :
'The liberality of England, however, towards the trade of her colonies has been confined chiefly to what concerns the market for their produce either in its rude state, or in what may be called the very first stage of manufacture. The more advanced or more refined manufactures, even of the colony produce, the merchants and manufacturers of Great Britain choose to reserve to themselves, and have prevailed upon the Legislature to prevent their establishment in the colonies—sometimes by high duties, and sometimes by absolute prohibitions.'
He goes on to give examples. The refining of sugar in the West Indies was prevented by imposing a duty of £4 25. 5 . per cwt. on West Indian refined sugar imported into Great Britain, as compared with 6s. 4d. a cwt. on Muscovado sugar. In America, though the production of pig and bar iron was encouraged, there was an absolute prohibition upon the erection of steel-furnaces. Another regulation prevented the American colonists from conveying from one province to another such articles of local manufacture as hats and
woollen goods, the object being to confine the production of the domestic industries concerned to domestic use. That these restrictions did not, in the then condition of industrial development in North America, prove so oppressive as they appear on paper Adam Smith admits; for the colonists in their own interest were more busily engaged in exploiting the untouched natural resources of the vast territory they occupied than in trying to establish manufacturing industries prematurely. Consequently, he argued, these restrictions upon the freedom of the colonies must be regarded for the moment merely as 'impertinent badges of slavery imposed upon them,
without any sufficient reason, by the groundless jealousy of the merchants and manufacturers of the Mother Country.
In a more advanced state, they might be really oppressive ' and insupportable.'
Nor was it only the colonies across the ocean which were subject to tyrannical restrictions on their commerce and industry. At the bidding of trade rivals in the Mother Country, exactly the same policy was applied to Ireland. Such industrial and agricultural prosperity as Ireland achieved in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was undoubtedly due to the energy of the English and Scottish settlers. In this sense Ireland was a colony and was treated as such. The actual injury she suffered was, however, far more serious than that inflicted upon the American colonies by English protectionists; for while England may, at worst, have slightly retarded the natural development of the North American colonies, in Ireland she definitely destroyed industries which had begun to flourish. The story is a shameful one. Take first the most important of Irish industries, then as now—the cattle industry. The importation of Irish cattle into England was prohibited, at the request of English landlords, by an Act of Parliament passed in 1663, which was humorously styled 'An Act for the Encouragement of Trade. A few years later an Act was passed declaring that the importation of Irish cattle, swine, and sheep into England was a public nuisance. The effect of this legislation was that Irishmen, being unable to export cattle or sheep, turned their attention to the exportation of wool. That again aroused English jealousy, and a few years later the importation of Irish woollens into England was forbidden. Almost at the same time Government encouragement was given to the linen trade in Ireland. England then had no
linen industry, and did not object to Ireland adopting that industry if she would abandon woollens. Later on, we find that the Irish shipping industry was severely hit by an Act excluding Irish shipping from the foreign trade. The glass industry, the silk and glove industries were also penalised. The brewing industry was attacked, not on temperance grounds, but because of competition with English beers.
These shameful incidents in our past history have generally been forgotten by Englishmen; they are bitterly remembered by Irishmen. Yet curiously enough the recital of these past wrongs is made by Irishmen to serve as an argument for the re-establishment of a political relationship between the two islands which would render possible the repetition of many of the worst of the ancient wrongs. As long as the Union endures, so long is it impossible for England to destroy Irish industries by hostile tariffs ; but if Ireland is to have a separate Parliament with a separate fiscal system she must be prepared for the possibility of the exclusion of her products from their nearest and most profitable market. Yet so far are present-day Irish politicians from realising this danger that many of them are now arguing that Ireland's commercial interests can only be safeguarded by the erection of a tariff wall between Great Britain and Ireland. This view is expressed by the two Irishmen who were members of Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Committee. They accepted the principle of imperial preference, but refused to sign the letter to the Prime Minister advocating that principle because no recognition had been made of the special case of Ireland, and they demanded 'that the same
fiscal liberty which is at present enjoyed by the self-governing 'Dominions should be extended to Ireland.' This can only mean that the signatories, Mr. John O'Neill and Mr. Richard Hazleton, are of opinion that Ireland ought to be free to exclude British products from the Irish market. But if Ireland is to have this freedom, a reciprocal freedom must be conferred upon Great Britain, and—if this island is once more to be ruled by a protectionist spirit—the anti-Irish legislation of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries may again be enacted.
It is a pity that Irish politicians of to-day, while feeding the passions of the Irish people by recalling the fiscal wrongs which Ireland suffered in the past, have not taken the trouble to examine the cause of those wrongs. The leaders of Irish political life in the eighteenth century fully understood both the cause and the remedy. It was the protectionist spirit which led England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to destroy Irish industries, and it was against the measures which resulted from that spirit that Irishmen rebelled. The revolt of the American colonists gave a lead and an opportunity to the Irish colonists. The Irish volunteers were formed, and the demand they put forward was for 'free trade.' In 1779 Grattan moved a resolution in the Irish Parliament declaring that “It is by no temporary expedient, but by free trade 'alone, that this nation is now to be saved from impending 'ruin. This declaration was emphasised by the volunteers, who paraded with two field-pieces bearing on their muzzles the legend Free Trade, or this.'
It must be explained that the phrase ‘Free Trade' as then used did not mean freedom from import duties (Irish import duties were relatively low), but freedom for Irishmen to export their produce where they chose, and especially freedom to trade direct with the English plantations. The English manufacturers strongly objected to this last point. They said that Ireland would be getting all the benefit of the British Empire and that England would be bearing the whole cost of imperial defence. Pitt attempted to strike a bargain between these opposing forces, on the basis that Ireland in return for Free Trade with the colonies should make a further contribution to the British Exchequer. But this proposal was not welcomed by either party. Then it was that sprang up the demand for union in order to bring Ireland under the same fiscal system with England, and to compel her to pay for the advantages she would derive from liberty to trade with the British possessions.
A closely similar proposal had already been made by Adam Smith, not only for Ireland but for the Plantations as well. This proposal, outlined a hundred and forty years ago, is one of the most remarkable features of the Wealth of Nations.' It may almost be described as the culmination of Adam Smith's great work. He leads up to it by reviewing the fiscal obstacles to internal trade which existed in many European countries. He shows how some of the provinces of France were subjected to taxation from which others were exempt; how some were treated from the fiscal point of view as parts of France, others as foreign countries; how specific prohibitions were laid on the export of some commodities from one province to another. With regard to Italy he says:
The little duchy of Milan is divided into six provinces, in each of which there is a different system of taxation with regard to several different sorts of consumable goods. The still smaller territories of the Duke of Parma are divided into three or four, each of which has, in the same manner, a system of its own.'
In contrast with these and other foreign countries Great Britain possessed the advantage of a uniform system of taxation which removed the necessity for fiscal restrictions upon internal trade, so that 'goods may be carried from one end of 'the kingdom to the other without requiring any permit or * let-pass, without being subject to question, visit, or examina
tion.' This freedom of interior commerce,' Adam Smith argues, “is perhaps one of the principal causes of the prosperity of Great Britain.' He then presses home his conclusion :
'If the same freedom in consequence of the same uniformity can be extended to Ireland and the Plantations, both the grandeur of the State and the prosperity of every part of the Empire would probably be still greater than at present....
All the invidious restraints which at present oppress the trade of Ir
and, the distinction between the enumerated” and “ nonenumerated ” commodities of America, would be entirely at an end. The countries north of Cape Finisterre would be as open to every part of the produce of America as those south of that Cape are to some parts of that produce at present. The trade between all the different parts of the British Empire would, in consequence of this uniformity in the Custom-house laws, be as free as the coasting trade of Great Britain is at present. The British Empire would thus afford within itself an immense internal market for every part of the produce of all its different provinces.'
But Adain Smith saw clearly enough that his conception of a great British Empire-united by a system of complete internal free trade, and further strengthened by a greatly extended freedom of commerce with foreign countries—could only be realised through political union. He saw that it would be necessary to enlarge the British Parliament into the States General of the British Empire,' and he also saw how that proposal for inter-imperial free trade would be opposed by 'the private interests of many powerful individuals and the
confirmed prejudices of great bodies of people.' Nevertheless he asked leave of his readers to indulge in a speculation which 'can at worst be regarded but as a new Utopia, less amusing