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Title: Constructive Imperialism
Author: Milner, Viscount
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Transcriber's Note: Two advertisements from the beginning of the book
have been moved to the end.]

       *       *       *       *       *



      CONSTRUCTIVE
      IMPERIALISM

      BY

      VISCOUNT MILNER, G.C.B.

      FIVE SPEECHES

      DELIVERED AT
      TUNBRIDGE WELLS (OCTOBER 24, 1907)
      GUILDFORD (OCTOBER 29, 1907)
      EDINBURGH (NOVEMBER 15, 1907)
      RUGBY (NOVEMBER 19, 1907)
      AND OXFORD (DECEMBER 5, 1907)


      LONDON
      THE NATIONAL REVIEW OFFICE
      23 RYDER STREET, ST. JAMES'S
      1908

       *       *       *       *       *



CONTENTS


                                                        PAGE

TARIFF REFORM (TUNBRIDGE WELLS)                            7

A CONSTRUCTIVE POLICY (GUILDFORD)                         34

UNIONISTS AND THE EMPIRE (EDINBURGH)                      50

UNIONISTS AND SOCIAL REFORM (RUGBY)                       69

SWEATED INDUSTRIES (OXFORD)                               88

       *       *       *       *       *



TARIFF REFORM

Tunbridge Wells, October 24, 1907


As this is a Tariff Reform meeting pure and simple, I am anxious not
to approach the subject in any party spirit or in any spirit of
acrimonious controversy. The question is a difficult and complicated
one, and though I am a strong Tariff Reformer myself I hope I am not
incapable of seeing both sides of the case. I certainly should have
reason to be ashamed if I could not be fair to those whom, for the
sake of brevity and convenience, I will call Free Traders, though I do
not altogether admit the correctness of that designation. My views
were once the same as theirs, and though I long ago felt constrained
to modify them, and had become a Tariff Reformer some years before the
subject attained its present prominence in public discussion, it would
ill become me to treat as foolish arguments which I once found so
convincing or to vilify opinions which I once honestly shared.

What has happened to me is what I expect has happened to a good many
people. I still admire the great Free Trade writers, the force of
their intellect, the lucidity of their arguments. There can be no
clearer proof of the spell which they exercised over the minds of
their countrymen than the fact that so many leading public men on both
sides of politics remain their disciples to this very day. But for my
own part I have been unable to resist the evidence of facts which
shows me clearly that in the actual world of trade and industry things
do not work out even approximately as they ought to work out if the
Free Trade theory were the counsel of perfection which I once thought
it. And that has led me to question the theory itself, and so
questioned it now seems to me far from a correct statement of the
truth, even from the point of view of abstract inquiry. But I am not
here to engage in abstract arguments. What I want to do is to look at
the question from a strictly practical point of view, but at the same
time a very broad one. I am anxious to bring home to you the place of
Tariff Reform in a sound national policy, for, indeed, it seems to me
very difficult to construct such a policy without a complete revision
of our fiscal arrangements. Now a sound national policy has two
aspects. There are two great objects of practical patriotism, two
heads under which you may sum it up, much as the Church Catechism sums
up practical religion, under the heads of "duty to God" and "duty to
your neighbour." These objects are the strength of the Empire, and the
health, the well-being, the contentedness of the mass of the people,
resting as they always must on steady, properly organised, and fairly
remunerated labour. Remember always, these two things are one; they
are inseparable. There can be no adequate prosperity for the forty or
fifty million people in these islands without the Empire and all that
it provides; there can be no enduring Empire without a healthy,
thriving, manly people at the centre. Stunted, overcrowded town
populations, irregular employment, sweated industries, these things
are as detestable to true Imperialism as they are to philanthropy,
and they are detestable to the Tariff Reformer. His aim is to improve
the condition of the people at home, and to improve it concurrently
with strengthening the foundations of the Empire. Mind you, I do not
say that Tariff Reform alone is going to do all this. I make no such
preposterous claim for it. What I do say is that it fits in better
alike with a policy of social reform at home and with a policy
directed to the consolidation of the Empire than our existing fiscal
system does.

Now, what is the essential difference between Tariff Reformers and the
advocates of the present system? I must dwell on this even at the risk
of appearing tiresome, because there is so much misunderstanding on
the subject. In the eyes of the advocates of the present system, the
statesman, or at any rate the British statesman, when he approaches
fiscal policy, is confronted with the choice of Hercules. He is
placed, like the rider in the old legend, between the black and the
white horseman. On the one hand is an angel of light called Free
Trade; on the other a limb of Satan called Protection. The one is
entirely and always right; the other is entirely and always wrong.
All fiscal wisdom is summed up in clinging desperately to the one and
eschewing like sin anything that has the slightest flavour of the
other. Now, that view has certainly the merit of simplicity, and
simplicity is a very great thing; but, if we look at history, it does
not seem quite to bear out this simple view. This country became one
of the greatest and wealthiest in the world under a system of rigid
Protection. It has enjoyed great, though by no means unbroken,
prosperity under Free Trade. Side by side with that system of ours
other countries have prospered even more under quite different
systems. These facts alone are sufficient to justify the critical
spirit, which is the spirit of the Tariff Reformer. He does not
believe in any absolute right or wrong in such a matter as the
imposition of duties upon imports. Such duties cannot, he thinks, be
judged by one single test, namely, whether they do or do not favour
the home producer, and be condemned out of hand if they do favour him.

The Tariff Reformer rejects this single cast-iron principle. He
refuses to bow down before it, regardless of changing circumstances,
regardless of the policy of other countries and of that of the other
Dominions of the Crown. He wants a free hand in dealing with imports,
the power to adapt the fiscal policy of this country to the varying
conditions of trade and to the situation created at any given time by
the fiscal action of others. He has no superstitious objection to
using duties either to increase employment at home or to secure
markets abroad. But on the other hand he does not go blindly for
duties upon foreign imports as so-called Free Traders go blindly
against them, except in the case of articles not produced in this
country, some of which the Free Traders are obliged to tax
preposterously. Tariff Reform is not one-ideaed, rigid, inelastic, as
our existing system is. Many people are afraid of it, because they
think Tariff Reformers want to put duties on foreign goods for the fun
of the thing, merely for the sake of making them dearer. Certainly
Tariff Reformers do not think that cheapness is everything. Certainly
they hold that the blind worship of immediate cheapness may cost the
nation dear in the long run. But, unless cheapness is due to some
mischievous cause, they are just as anxious that we should buy cheaply
as the most ardent Cobdenite, and especially that we should buy
cheaply what we cannot produce ourselves. Talking of cheapness,
however, I must make a confession which I hope will not be
misunderstood by ladies present who are fond of shopping--I wish we
could get out of the way of discussing national economics so much from
the shopping point of view. Surely what matters, from the point of
view of the general well-being, is the productive capacity of the
people, and the actual amount of their production of articles of
necessity, use, or beauty. Everything we consume might be cheaper, and
yet if the total amount of things which were ours to consume was less
we should be not richer but poorer. It is, I think, one of the first
duties of Tariff Reformers to keep people's eyes fixed upon this vital
point--the amount of our national production. It is that which
constitutes the real income of the nation, on which wages and profits
alike depend.

And that brings me to another point. Production in this country is
dependent on importation, more dependent than in most countries. We
are not self-supplying. We must import from outside these islands vast
quantities of raw materials and of the necessaries of life. That, at
least, is common ground between the Free Trader and the Tariff
Reformer. But the lessons they draw from the fact are somewhat
different. The Free Trader is only anxious that we should buy all
these necessary imports as cheaply as possible. The Tariff Reformer is
also anxious that we should buy them cheaply, but he is even more
anxious to know how we are going to pay for all this vast quantity of
things which we are bound to import. And that leads him to two
conclusions. The first is that, seeing how much we are obliged to buy
from abroad in any case, he looks rather askance at our increasing our
indebtedness by buying things which we could quite easily produce at
home, especially with so many unemployed and half-employed people. The
other, and this is even a more pressing solicitude to him, is that it
is of vital importance to us to look after our external markets, to
make sure that we shall always have customers, and good customers, to
buy our goods, and so to enable us to pay for our indispensable
imports. The Free Trader does not share this solicitude. He has got a
comfortable theory that if you only look after your imports your
exports will look after themselves. Will they? The Tariff Reformer
does not agree with that at all. Imports no doubt are paid for by
exports, but it does not in the least follow that by increasing your
dependence on others you will necessarily increase their dependence on
you. It would be much truer to say: "Look after the exports and the
imports will look after themselves." The more you sell the more you
will be able to buy, but it does not in the least follow that the more
you buy the more you will be able to sell. What business man would go
on the principle of buying as much as possible and say: "Oh, that is
all right. I am sure to be able to sell enough to pay for it." The
first thought of a wise business man is for his markets, and you as a
great trading nation are bound to think of your markets, not only your
markets of to-day but of to-morrow and the day after to-morrow.

The Free Trade theory was the birth of a time when our imports were
practically all supplemental to our exports, all indispensable to us,
and when, on the other hand, the whole of the world was in need of our
goods, far beyond our power of supplying it. Since then the situation
has wholly altered. At this actual moment, it is true, there is
temporarily a state of things which in one respect reproduces the
situation of fifty years ago. There is for the moment an almost
unlimited demand for some of our goods abroad. But that is not the
normal situation. The normal situation is that there is an increasing
invasion of our markets by goods from abroad which we used to produce
ourselves, and an increasing tendency to exclude our goods from
foreign markets. The Tariff Reform movement is the inevitable result
of these altered circumstances. There is nothing artificial about it.
It is not, as some people think, the work of a single man, however
much it may owe to his genius and his courage, however much it may
suffer, with other good causes, through his enforced retirement from
the field. It is not an eccentric idea of Mr. Chamberlain's. Sooner or
later it was bound to come in any case. It is the common sense and
experience of the people waking up to the altered state of affairs,
beginning to shake itself free from a theory which no longer fits the
facts. It is a movement of emancipation, a twofold struggle for
freedom--in the sphere of economic theory, for freedom of thought, in
the sphere of fiscal policy, for freedom of action.

And that freedom of action is needed quickly. It is needed now. I am
not doubtful of the ultimate triumph of Tariff Reform. Sooner or
later, I believe, it is sure to achieve general recognition. What does
distress me is the thought of the opportunities we are losing in the
meantime. This year has been marked, disastrously marked, in our
annals by the emphatic and deliberate rejection on the part of our
Government of the great principle of Preferential Trade within the
Empire. All the other self-governing States are in favour of it. The
United Kingdom alone blocks the way. What does that mean? What is it
that we risk losing as long as we refuse to accept the principle of
Preferential Trade, and will certainly lose in the long run if we
persist in that refusal? It is a position of permanent and assured
advantage in some of the greatest and most growing markets in the
world. Preference to British goods in the British dominions beyond the
sea would be a constant and potent influence tending to induce the
people of those countries to buy what they require to buy outside
their own borders from us rather than from our rivals. It means beyond
all doubt and question so much more work for British hands. And the
people of those countries are anxious that British hands should get
it. They have, if I may so express myself, a family feeling, which
makes them wish to keep the business within the family. But business
is business. They are willing to give us the first chance. But if we
will give nothing in return, if we tell them to mind their own
business and not to bother us with offers of mutual concessions, it is
only a question of time, and the same chance will be given to others,
who will not refuse to avail themselves of it.

You see the beginning of the process already in such an event as the
newly-concluded commercial treaty between Canada and France. If we
choose, it is still possible for us not only to secure the preference
we have in Colonial markets, but to increase it. But if we do nothing,
commercial arrangements with other nations who are more far-sighted
will gradually whittle that preference away. To my mind the action of
Canada in the matter of that treaty, perfectly legitimate and natural
though it be, is much more ominous and full of warning to us than the
new Australian Tariff, about which such an unjustifiable outcry has
been made. Rates of duty can be lowered as easily as they can be
raised, but the principle of preference once abandoned would be very
difficult to revive. I am sorry that the Australians have found it
necessary in their own interests to raise their duties, but I would
rather see any of the British Dominions raise its duties and still
give a preference to British goods than lower its duties and take away
that preference. Whatever duties may be imposed by Canada, Australia,
or the other British Dominions, they will still remain great
importers, and with the vast expansion in front of them their imports
are bound to increase. They will still be excellent customers, and the
point is that they should be our customers.

In the case of Australia the actual extent of the preference accorded
to British goods under the new tariff is not, as has been represented,
of small value to us. It is of considerable value. But what is of far
more importance is the fact that Australia continues to adhere to the
principle of Preference. Moreover, Australia, following the example of
Canada, has established an extensive free list for the benefit of this
country. Let nobody say after this that Australia shows no family
feeling. I for one am grateful to Australia, and I am grateful to that
great Australian statesman, Mr. Deakin, for the way in which, in the
teeth of discouragement from us, he has still persisted in making the
principle of preferential trade within the Empire an essential feature
of the Australian Tariff.

Preference is vital to the future growth of British trade, but it is
not only trade which is affected by it. The idea which lies at the
root of it is that the scattered communities, which all own
allegiance to the British Crown, should regard and treat one another
not as strangers but as kinsmen, that, while each thinks first of its
own interests, it should think next of the interests of the family,
and of the rest of the world only after the family. That idea is the
very corner-stone of Imperial unity. To my mind any weakening of that
idea, any practical departure from it, would be an incalculable loss
to all of us. I should regard a readjustment of our own Customs duties
with the object of maintaining that idea, even if such readjustment
were of some immediate expense to ourselves, as I hope to show you
that it would not be, as a most trifling and inconsiderable price to
pay for a prize of infinite value. I am the last man to contend that
preferential trade alone is a sufficient bond of Empire. But I do
contend that the maintenance or creation of other bonds becomes very
difficult, if in the vitally important sphere of commerce we are to
make no distinction between our fellow-citizens across the seas and
foreigners. Closer trade relations involve closer relations in all
other respects. An advantage, even a slight advantage, to Colonial
imports in the great British market would tend to the development of
the Colonies as compared with the foreign nations who compete with
them. But the development of the British communities across the seas
is of more value to us than an equivalent development of foreign
countries. It is of more value to our trade, for, if there is one
thing absolutely indisputable, it is that these communities buy ever
so much more of us per head than foreign nations do. But it is not
only a question of trade; it is a question of the future of our
people. By encouraging the development of the British Dominions beyond
the seas we direct emigration to them in preference to foreign lands.
We keep our people under the flag instead of scattering them all over
the world. We multiply not merely our best customers but our fellow
citizens, our only sure and constant friends.

And now is there nothing we can do to help forward this great object?
Is it really the case, as the Free Traders contend, that in order to
meet the advances of the other British States and to give, as the
saying is, Preference for Preference, we should be obliged to make
excessive sacrifices, and to place intolerable burdens on the people
of this country? I believe that this is an absolute delusion. I
believe that, if only we could shake off the fetters of a narrow and
pedantic theory, and freely reshape our own system of import duties on
principles of obvious common sense, we should be able at one and the
same time to promote trade within the Empire, to strengthen our hands
in commercial negotiations with foreign countries, and to render tardy
justice to our home industries.

The Free Trader goes on the principle of placing duties on a very few
articles only, articles, generally, of universal consumption, and of
making those duties very high ones. Moreover, with the exception of
alcohol, these articles are all things which we cannot produce
ourselves. I do not say that the system has not some merits. It is
easy to work, and the cost of collection is moderate. But it has also
great defects. The system is inelastic, for the duties being so few
and so heavy it is difficult to raise them in case of emergency
without checking consumption. Moreover, the burden of the duties
falls entirely on the people of this country, for the foreign
importer, except in the case of alcoholic liquors, has no home
producer to compete with, and so he simply adds the whole of the duty
to the price of the article. Last, but not least, the burden is
inequitably distributed. It would be infinitely fairer, as between
different classes of consumers, to put a moderate duty on a large
number of articles than to put an enormous duty on two or three. But
from that fairer and more reasonable system we are at present debarred
by our pedantic adhesion to the rule that no duty may be put on
imported articles unless an equivalent duty is put on articles of the
same kind produced at home. Why, you may well ask, should we be bound
by any such rule? I will tell you. It is because, unless we imposed
such an equivalent duty, we should be favouring the British producer,
and because under our present system every other consideration has got
to give way to this supreme law, the "categorical imperative" of the
Free Trader, that we must not do anything which could by any
possibility in the remotest degree benefit the British producer in
his competition with the foreigner in our home market. It is from the
obsession of this doctrine that the Tariff Reformer wishes to liberate
our fiscal policy. He approaches this question free from any doctrinal
prepossessions whatever. Granted that a certain number of millions
have to be raised by Customs duties, he sees before him some five to
six hundred millions of foreign imports on which to raise them, and so
his first and very natural reflection is, that by distributing duties
pretty equally over this vast mass of imported commodities he could
raise a very large revenue without greatly enhancing the price of
anything. Our present system throws away, so to speak, the advantage
of our vast and varied importation by electing to place the burden of
duties entirely on very few articles. As against this system the
Tariff Reformer favours the principle of a widespread tariff, of
making all foreign imports pay, but pay moderately, and he holds that
it is no more than justice to the British producer that all articles
brought to the British market should contribute to the cost of
keeping it up. It is no answer to say that it is the British consumer
who would pay the duty, for even if this were invariably true, which
it is not, it leaves unaffected the question of fair play between the
British producer and the foreign producer. The price of the home-made
article is enhanced by the taxes which fall upon the home makers, and
which are largely devoted to keeping up our great open market, but the
price of the foreign article is not so enhanced, though it has the
full benefit of the open market all the same. Moreover, the price of
the home-made article is also enhanced by the many restrictions which
we place, and rightly place, on home manufacture in the interests of
the workers--restrictions as to hours, methods of working, sanitary
conditions, and so forth--all excellent, all laudable, but expensive,
and from which the foreign maker is often absolutely, and always
comparatively, free. The Tariff Reformer is all for the open market,
but he is for fair play as between those who compete in it, and he
holds that even cheapness ought not to be sought at the expense of
unfairness to the British producer.

I say, then, that the Tariff Reformer starts with the idea of a
moderate all-round tariff. But he is not going to ride his principle
to death. He is essentially practical. There are some existing duties,
like those on alcoholic liquors, the high rate of which is justified
for other than fiscal reasons. He sees no reason to lower these
duties. On the other hand, there are some articles, such as raw
cotton, which compete with no British produce, and even a slight
enhancement of the price of which might materially injure our export
trade. The Tariff Reformer would place these on a free list, for he
feels that, however strong may be the argument for moderate all-round
duties as a guiding rule, it is necessary to admit exceptions even to
the best of rules, and it is part of his creed that we are bound to
study the actual effect of particular duties both upon ourselves and
upon others. No doubt that means hard work, an intimate acquaintance
with the details of our industry and trade, an eye upon the
proceedings of foreign countries. A modern tariff, if it is to be
really suitable to the requirements of the nation adopting it, must be
the work of experts. But is that any argument against it? Are we less
competent to make a thorough study of these questions than other
people, as for instance the Germans, or are we too lazy? Free Traders
make fun of a scientific tariff, but why should science be excluded
from the domain of fiscal policy, especially when the necessity of it
is so vigorously and so justly impressed upon us in every other field?
It is not only the War Office which has got to get rid of antiquated
prejudices and to open its eyes to what is going on in the world. Our
financial departments might reasonably be asked to do the same, and
they are quite equally capable, and I have no doubt equally willing,
to respond to such an appeal, instead of leaving the most thorough,
the most comprehensive, and the most valuable inquiry into the effects
of import duties, which has ever been made in this country, to a
private agency like the Tariff Commission.

I do not think it is necessary for me to point out how a widespread
tariff, besides those other advantages which I have indicated, would
strengthen our hands in commercial policy. In the first place, it
would at once enable us to meet the advances of the other States of
the Empire, and to make the British Empire in its commercial aspect a
permanent reality. To do this it would not be necessary, nor do I
think it would be right, to exempt goods from the British Dominions
entirely from the duties to which similar goods coming from foreign
lands are subject. Our purpose would be equally well served by doing
what the Colonies do, and having two scales of duty, a lower one for
the products of all British States and Dependencies, a higher one for
those of the outside world. The amount of this preference would be a
matter of bargain to be settled by some future Imperial Conference,
not foredoomed to failure, and preceded by careful preliminary
investigation and negotiations. It might be twenty-five, or
thirty-three, or even fifty per cent. And whatever it was, I think we
should reserve the right also to give a preference, but never of the
same amount, to any foreign country which was willing to give us some
substantial equivalent. It need not be a general preference; it might
be the removal or reduction of some particular duties. I may say I do
not myself like the idea of engaging in tariff wars. I do not believe
in prohibitive or penal tariffs. But I do believe in having something
to give to those who treat us well, something to withhold from those
who treat us badly. At present, as you are well aware, Great Britain
is the one great nation which is treated with absolute disregard by
foreign countries in framing their tariffs. They know that however
badly they treat us they have nothing to lose by it, and so we go to
the wall on every occasion.

And now, though there is a great deal more to be said, I feel I must
not trespass much further on your patience. But there is one objection
to Tariff Reform which is constantly made, and which is at once so
untrue and so damaging, that before sitting down I should like to say
a few words about it. We are told that this is an attempt to transfer
the burden of a part of our taxation from the shoulders of the rich to
those of the poor. If that were true, it would be fatal to Tariff
Reform, and I for one would have nothing to do with it. But it is not
true. There is no proposal to reduce and I believe there is no
possibility of reducing, the burden which at present falls on the
shoulders of the upper and middle classes in the shape of direct
taxation. On the other hand, I do not believe there is much room for
increasing it--though I think it can be increased in one or two
directions--without consequences which the poorer classes would be the
first to feel. Excise duties, which are mainly paid by those classes,
are already about as high as they can be. It follows that for any
increase of revenue, beyond the ordinary growth arising from increase
of wealth and population, you must look, at least to a great extent,
to Customs duties. And the tendency of the time is towards increased
expenditure, all of it, mind you--and I do not complain of the
fact--due to the effort to improve the condition of the mass of the
people. It is thus no question of shifting existing burdens, it is a
question of distributing the burden of new expenditure of which the
mass of the people will derive the benefit. And if that new
expenditure must, as I think I have shown, be met, at least in large
part, by Customs duties, which method of raising these duties is more
in the interest of the poorer classes--our present system, which
enhances enormously the price of a few articles of universal
consumption like tea and sugar and tobacco, or a tariff spread over a
much greater number of articles at a much lower rate? Beyond all doubt
or question the mass of the people would be better off under the
latter system. Even assuming--as I will for the sake of argument,
though I do not admit it--that the British consumer pays the whole of
the duty on imported foreign goods competing with British goods, is it
not evident that the poorer classes of the community would pay a
smaller proportion of Customs duties under a tariff which included a
great number of foreign manufactured articles, at present entirely
free, and largely the luxuries of the rich, than they do, when Customs
duties are restricted to a few articles of universal consumption?

And that is at the same time the answer to the misleading, and often
dishonest, outcry about "taxing the food of the people," about the big
loaf and little loaf, and all the rest of it. The construction of a
sensible all-round tariff presents many difficulties, but there is
one difficulty which it does not present, and that is the difficulty
of so adjusting your duties that the total proportion of them falling
upon the wage-earning classes shall not be increased. I for one regard
such an adjustment as a postulate in any scheme of Tariff Reform. And
just one other argument--and I recommend it especially to those
working-class leaders who are so vehement in their denunciation of
Tariff Reform. Is it of no importance to the people whom they
especially claim to represent that our fiscal policy should lean so
heavily in favour of the foreign and against the British producer? If
they regard that as a matter of indifference, I think they will come
to find in time that the mass of the working classes do not agree with
them. But be that as it may, it is certain that I, for one, do not
advocate Tariff Reform in the interests of the rich, but in the
interests of the whole nation, and therefore necessarily of the
working classes, who are the majority of the nation.



A CONSTRUCTIVE POLICY

Guildford, October 29, 1907


I am very sensible of the honour of being called on to reply for the
Unionist cause, but I approach the task with some diffidence, not to
say trepidation. I feel very conscious that I am not a very good
specimen of a party man. It is not that I do not hold strong opinions
on many public questions--in fact, that is the very trouble. My
opinions are too strong to fit well into any recognised programme. I
suffer from an inveterate habit, which is partly congenital, but which
has been developed by years spent in the service of the Crown, of
looking at public questions from other than party points of view. And
I am too old to unlearn it.

For a man so constituted there is evidently only a limited _rôle_ in
political life. But he may have his uses all the same, if you take
him for what he is, and not for what he is not, and does not pretend
to be. If he does not speak with the weight and authority of a party
leader, he is at least free from the embarrassments by which a party
leader is beset, and unhampered by the caution which a party leader is
bound to exercise. He commits nobody but himself, and therefore he can
afford to speak with a bluntness which is denied to those whose
utterances commit many thousands of other people. And I am not sure
whether the present moment is not one at which the unconventional
treatment of public questions may not be specially useful, so, whether
it be as an independent Unionist or as a friendly outsider--in
whichever light you like to regard me--I venture to contribute my mite
to the discussion.

Having now made my position clear, I will at once plunge _in medias
res_ with a few artless observations. You hear all this grumbling
which is going on just now against the Unionist leader. Well,
gentlemen, a party which is in low water always does grumble at its
leader. I have known this sort of thing happen over and over again in
my own lifetime. And the consequence is, it is all like water on a
duck's back to me; it makes no impression on me whatsoever. I remember
as long back as the late sixties and early seventies the Conservative
party were ceaselessly grumbling at Lord Beaconsfield, then Mr.
Disraeli, right up to his greatest victory and the commencement of his
longest tenure of power--almost up to the moment when he became the
permanent idol of the Conservative party. I remember how the Liberals
grumbled at Mr. Gladstone from 1873 and 1874 almost up to the opening
of the Midlothian campaign. Again, I remember how the Conservatives
grumbled at Lord Salisbury from the first moment of his accession to
the leadership right up to 1885. I can recall as well as if it were
yesterday a young Tory friend of mine--he has become a distinguished
man since, and I am not going to give him away--telling me, who was at
that time a Liberal, in the year of grace 1883 or 1884, that it was
absolutely hopeless for the Tory party ever to expect to come back
into power with such a leader as Lord Salisbury. He called him a
"Professor." He said, "No doubt he is a very able man and an excellent
speaker, but he is a man of science. He has no popular gifts whatever.
There is not a ghost of a chance of a Conservative victory so long as
he is in command." Yet that was not more than two years before Lord
Salisbury commenced a series of Premierships which kept him, for some
thirteen and a half years out of seventeen, at the helm of the State.

With all these experiences to look back upon it is really impossible
for me to be much affected by the passing wave of dissatisfaction with
Mr. Balfour. Men of first-rate ability and character are rare. Still
rarer are men who, having those qualities, also have the knack of
compelling the attention and respect even of a hostile House of
Commons. When a party possesses a leader with all these gifts, it is
not likely to change him in a hurry.

But if I refuse to take a gloomy view of the Unionist leadership, I
must admit that I am not altogether an optimist about the immediate
prospects of Unionism. There is no doubt a bright side to the picture
as well as a less encouraging one. The bright side, from the party
point of view, is afforded by the hopeless chaos of opinion in the
ranks of our opponents--by the total absence of any clear conviction
or definite line whatever in the counsels of the Government, which
causes Ministers to dash wildly from measure to measure in
endeavouring to satisfy first one section and then another section of
their motley following, and which prevents them from ever giving
really adequate attention to any one of their proposals.

I am not speaking of Ministers individually. Granted that some of them
have done excellent work at the heads of their several departments--I
think it would not be fair to deny that. I am thinking of their
collective policy, and especially of their legislative efforts. For
monuments of clumsy opportunism, commend me to the legislative
failures, and, for the matter of that, to most of the legislative
achievements, of the last two years.

So far so good. Unionists cannot complain of what the Government is
doing for them. And on the negative side of policy--in their duty as
a mere Opposition--their course is clear. It is a fundamental article
of their faith to maintain the authority of the Imperial Parliament in
Ireland. But that authority can be set aside by the toleration of
lawlessness just as much, and in a worse way, than by the repeal of
the Union. And such toleration is the rule to-day. There may be no
violent crime, but there is open and widespread defiance of the law
and interference with the elementary rights of law-abiding people. It
is a demoralising state of affairs, and one to which no good citizen
in any part of the United Kingdom, however little he may be personally
affected by it, can afford to be indifferent. Once let it be granted
that any popular movement, which is not strong enough to obtain an
alteration of the law by regular means, can simply set the law aside
in practice, and you are at the beginning of general anarchy.

Unionists have to fight for a restoration of the respect for law in
Ireland in the interest of the whole kingdom. And they may have to
fight also, it appears, against the abrogation of our existing
constitution in favour of a system of quinquennial dictatorships. For
that and nothing else is involved in the proposal to reduce the House
of Lords to impotence and put nothing in its place. I am not concerned
to represent the present constitution of the House of Lords as
perfect. I have always been of opinion that a more representative and
therefore a stronger second chamber was desirable. But that we can
afford to do without any check on the House of Commons, especially
since the removal of all checks upon the power of those who from time
to time control the House of Commons to rush through any measures they
please without the possibility of an appeal to the people--that is a
proposition which no man with any knowledge of history or any respect
for constitutional government can possibly defend. To resist such a
proposal as that is not fighting for a party; it is not fighting for a
class. It is fighting for the stability of society, for the
fundamental rights of the whole nation.

I say, then, that on the negative side, in the things it is called
upon to resist, the Unionist party is strong and fortunate. But are we
to be content with that? Should we not all like to feel that we
appealed for the confidence of the people on the merits of our own
policy, and not merely on the demerits of our opponents? That, I take
it, is the feeling at the bottom of what men are saying on all hands
just now--that the Unionist party ought to have a constructive policy.
Now, if by a constructive policy is meant a string of promises, a sort
of Newcastle programme, then I can well imagine any wise statesmen,
especially if they happened to be in Opposition, thinking twice before
they committed themselves to it. But if by a constructive policy is
meant a definite set of principles, a clear attitude to the questions
which most agitate the public mind, a sympathetic grasp of popular
needs, and a readiness to indicate the extent to which, and the lines
on which, you think it possible and desirable to satisfy them--then I
agree that the Unionist party ought to have such a policy. And I
venture to say that, if it has such a policy, the fact is not yet
sufficiently apparent to the popular mind, or, perhaps, I should say,
speaking as one of the populace, to my mind.

Many people think that it is sufficient for the purpose--that it is
possible to conduct a victorious campaign with the single watchword
"Down with Socialism." Well, I am not fond of mere negatives. I do not
like fighting an abstract noun. My objection to anti-Socialism as a
platform is that Socialism means so many different things. On this
point I agree with Mr. Asquith. I will wait to denounce Socialism till
I see what form it takes. Sometimes it is synonymous with robbery, and
to robbery, open or veiled, boldly stalking in the face of day or
hiding itself under specious phrases, Unionists are, as a matter of
course, opposed. But mere fidelity to the eighth Commandment is not a
constructive policy, and Socialism is not necessarily synonymous with
robbery. Correctly used, the word only signifies a particular view of
the proper relation of the State to its citizens--a tendency to
substitute public for private ownership, or to restrict the freedom of
individual enterprise in the interests of the public. But there are
some forms of property which we all admit should be public and not
private, and the freedom of individual enterprise is already limited
by a hundred laws. Socialism and Individualism are opposing
principles, which enter in various proportions into the constitution
of every civilised society; it is merely a question of degree. One
community is more Socialistic than another. The same community is more
Socialistic at one time than at another. This country is far more
Socialistic than it was fifty years ago, and for most of the changes
in that direction the Unionist and the Tory party are responsible. The
Factory Acts are one instance; free education is another. The danger,
as it seems to me, of the Unionist party going off on a crusade
against Socialism is that in the heat of that crusade it may neglect,
or appear to neglect, those social evils of which honest Socialism is
striving, often, no doubt, by unwise means, to effect a cure. If the
Unionist party did that, it would be unfaithful to its own best
traditions from the days of "Sybil" and "Coningsby" to the present
time.

The true antidote to revolutionary Socialism is practical social
reform. That is no claptrap phrase--although it may sound so; there is
a great historical truth behind it. The revolutionary Socialist--I
call him revolutionary because he wants to alter the whole basis of
society--would like to get rid of all private property, except,
perhaps, our domestic pots and pans. He is averse from private
enterprise. He is going absurdly too far; but what gave birth to his
doctrine? The abuse of the rights of private property, the cruelty and
the failure of the scramble for gain, which mark the reign of a
one-sided Individualism. If we had not gone much too far in one
direction, we should not have had this extravagant reaction in the
other. But do not let us lose our heads in face of that reaction.
While resisting the revolutionary propaganda, let us be more, and not
less, strenuous in removing the causes of it.

You may think I am now talking pure Radicalism. Well, but it is not to
the objects which many Radicals have at heart that we, as Unionists,
need take exception. Why should we make them a present of those good
objects? Old age pensions; the multiplication of small landholders--and,
let me add, landowners; the resuscitation of agriculture; and, on the
other hand, better housing in our crowded centres; town planning;
sanitary conditions of labour; the extinction of sweating; the physical
training of the people; continuation schools--these and all other
measures necessary to preserve the stamina of the race and develop its
intelligence and productive power--have we not as good a right to
regard these as our objects, aye, and in many cases a better right, than
the supporters of the Government have?

It is not these objects which we deprecate. On the contrary, they have
our ardent sympathy. What we do deprecate is the spirit in which they
are so often preached and pursued. No progress is going to be
made--quite the contrary--by stirring up class hatred or trying to rob
Peter in order to pay Paul. It is not true that you cannot benefit one
class without taking from another class--still less true that by
taking from one you necessarily benefit another. The national income,
the sum total of all our productive activities, is capable of being
enormously increased or diminished by wise or foolish policy. For it
does not only depend on the amount of capital and labour. A number of
far subtler factors enter into the account--science, organisation,
energy, credit, confidence, the spirit in which men set about their
business. The one thing which would be certain to diminish that
income, and to recoil on all of us, would be that war of classes which
many people seem anxious to stir up. Nothing could be more fatal to
prosperity, and to the fairest hopes of social progress, than if the
great body of the upper and middle classes of the community had cause
to regard that progress as indissolubly associated with an attack upon
themselves. And that is why, if reforms such as I have indicated are
costly--as they will be costly--you must find some better way of
providing for them than by merely giving another turn to the
income-tax screw, or just adding so much per cent. to the estate duty.

From my point of view, social reform is a national affair. All classes
benefit by it, not only those directly affected. And therefore all
should contribute according to their means. I do not in any way object
to the rich being made to contribute, even for purposes in which they
are not directly interested. What I do object to is that the great
body of the people should not contribute to them. It is thoroughly
vicious in principle to divide the nation, as many of the Radical and
Labour men want to divide it, into two sections--a majority which only
calls the tune, and a minority which only pays the piper.

I own I am aghast at the mean opinion which many politicians seem to
have of the mass of their working fellow countrymen, when they
approach them with this crude sort of bribery, offering them
everything for nothing, always talking to them of their claims upon
the State, and never of their duties towards it. This is a democratic
country. It is their State and their Empire--theirs to possess, theirs
to control, but theirs also to support and to defend. And I for one
have such faith in the common sense and fair-mindedness of the British
people that I believe you have only to convince them that you have a
really sound national policy, and they will rally to it, without
having to be bought by promises of a penny off this and twopence off
the other--a sort of appeal, I regret to say, which is not only
confined to Radical orators, but in which Unionists also are
sometimes too apt to indulge.

And, now, gentlemen, only one word in conclusion--a brief and
inadequate reference to a vast subject, but one to which I am at all
times and seasons specially bound to refer. After all, my chief
quarrel with the Radical party--not with all of them--I do not say
that for a moment--but with a far too large and influential
section--is their anti-patriotism. I use the word advisedly. It is not
that they are unpatriotic in the sense of having no affection for
their country. It is that they are deliberately and on principle--I do
not asperse their motives; I do not question their sincerity and
conviction--anti-patriotic, opposed to national as distinct from
cosmopolitan ideals. They are not zealous for national defence; they
have no faith in the Empire; they love to show their impartiality by
taking sides against their own country; they object to their children
being taught respect for the flag. But we Unionists are not
cosmopolitans, but Britons. We have no envy or ill-will towards other
nations; a man is not a worse neighbour because he loves his own
family. But we do hold that it is not our business to look after
others. It is our business to look after ourselves and our
dependencies, and the great kindred communities who own allegiance to
the British flag. We want to draw closer to them, to stand together;
and we believe that the strength and the unity of the British Empire
are of vital and practical importance to every citizen. In all our
propaganda, and in all our policy, let us continue to give that great
principle a foremost place.



UNIONISTS AND THE EMPIRE

Edinburgh, November 15, 1907


I am greatly reassured by the very kind reception which you have just
given me. To tell the truth, I had been feeling a little alarmed at
the fate which might await me in Edinburgh. From a faithful perusal of
the Radical Press I had been led to believe that Scotland was seething
with righteous indignation against that branch of the Legislature of
which I am, it is true, only a humble and very recent member, but yet
a member, and therefore involved in the general condemnation of the
ruthless hereditary tyrants and oppressors of the people, the
privileged landowning class, which is alleged to be so out of sympathy
with the mass of their fellow-countrymen, although, oddly enough, it
supplies many of the most popular candidates, not only of one party,
at any General Election. Personally, I feel it rather hard to be
painted in such black colours. There is no taint of hereditary
privilege about me. I am not--I wish I were--the owner of broad acres,
and I am in no way conscious of belonging to a specially favoured
class. There are a great many of my fellow members in the House of
Lords who are in the same position, and who sit there, not by virtue
of any privilege, but by virtue of their services, or, let me say in
my own case, supposed services, to the State. And while we sit
there--and here I venture, with all humility, to speak for all the
members of that body, whether hereditary or created--we feel that we
ought to deal with the questions submitted to us to the best of our
judgment and conscience, without fear of the consequences to ourselves
and without allowing ourselves to be brow-beaten for not being
different from what we are. We believe that we perform a useful and
necessary function. We believe that a Second Chamber is essential to
the good government of this country. We do not contend--certainly I am
myself very far from contending--that the existing Second Chamber is
the best imaginable. Let there be a well-considered reform of the
House of Lords, or even, if need be, an entirely different Second
Chamber. But until you have got this better instrument, do not throw
away the instrument which you have--the only defence, not of the
privileges of a class, but of the rights of the whole nation, against
hasty, ill-considered measures and against the subordination of
permanent national interests to the temporary exigencies of a party.

It is said that there is a permanent Conservative majority in the
House of Lords. But then every Second Chamber is, and ought to be,
conservative in temper. It exists to exercise a restraining influence,
to ensure that great changes shall not be made in fundamental
institutions except by the deliberate will of the nation, and not as
the outcome of a mere passing mood. And if the accusation is, that the
House of Lords is too Conservative in a party sense, which is a
different thing, I admit, from being Conservative in the highest and
best sense, that points not to doing away with the Second Chamber, but
to making such a change in its composition as, while leaving it still
powerful, still, above all, independent, will render it more
representative of the permanent mind of the nation.

But let me be permitted to observe that the instance relied on to prove
that the House of Lords is in the pocket of the Conservative party is a
very unfortunate instance. What is its offence? It is said that the
Lords rejected the Scottish Land Bill. But they did not reject the
Scottish Land Bill. They were quite prepared to accept a portion of the
Bill, and it is for the Government to answer to the people interested
in that portion for their not having received the benefits which the
Bill was presumably intended to bestow on them. What the Government did
was to hold a pistol at the head of the House of Lords, and to say that
they must either accept the whole straggling and ill-constructed
measure as it stood, or be held up to public odium for rejecting it.
But when the Bill was looked at as a whole, it was found to contain
principles--novel principles as far as the great part of Scotland was
concerned, bad principles, as the experience of Ireland showed--which
the House of Lords, and not only the Conservatives in the House of
Lords, were not prepared to endorse. Was it Conservative criticism
which killed the Bill? It was riddled with arguments by a Liberal Peer
and former Liberal Prime Minister--arguments to which the Government
speakers were quite unable, and had the good sense not even to attempt,
to reply. And that is the instance which is quoted to prove that the
House of Lords is a Tory Caucus!

Now, before leaving this question of the House of Lords, let me just
say one word about its general attitude. I have not long been a member
of that assembly. I do not presume to take much part in its
discussions. But I follow them, and I think I follow them with a
fairly unprejudiced mind. On many questions I am perhaps not in accord
with the views of the majority of the House. But what strikes me about
the House of Lords is that it is a singularly independent assembly. It
is not at the beck and call of any man. It is a body which does not
care at all about party claptrap, but which does care a great deal
about a good argument, from whatever quarter it may proceed.
Moreover, I am confident that the great body of its members are quite
alive to the fact that they cannot afford to cast their votes merely
according to their individual opinions and personal prejudices--that
they are trustees for the nation, and that while it is their duty to
prevent the nation being hustled into revolution, as but for them it
would have been hustled into Home Rule in 1893, they have no right to
resist changes upon which the nation has clearly and after full
deliberation set its mind. And when the Prime Minister says that it is
intolerable arrogance on the part of the House of Lords to pretend to
know better what the nation wishes than the House of Commons, I can
only reply that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In 1893 the
House of Commons said that the nation wished Home Rule. The House of
Lords had the intolerable arrogance to take a different view. Well,
within less than two years the question was submitted to the nation;
and who proved to be right?

I regret to have had to dwell at such length upon this particular
topic. But it seems to me that we have no choice in the matter. If
the Government succeed in their attempt to divert the attention of the
nation from matters of the greatest interest at home and abroad in
order to involve us all in a constitutional struggle on a false issue,
we must be prepared to meet them. But I do not wish to waste the rare
opportunity afforded to me to-night of addressing this great and
representative Scottish audience by talking exclusively about this
regrettable manoeuvre. There is something I am anxious to say to you
about the future of the Unionist party. I do not claim to lay down a
policy for that or for any party. I am not, by temperament or
antecedents, a good party man. But I want to be allowed, as a private
citizen, to point out what are the great services which I think the
Unionist party can render to the nation at the present very critical
juncture in its history. The Unionist party has a splendid record in
the past. For twenty years it has saved the United Kingdom from
disruption. It has preserved South Africa for the Empire; and, greatly
as I feel and know, that the results of the efforts and sacrifices of
the nation have been marred and impaired by the disastrous policy of
the last two years, South Africa is still one country under the
British flag. And all the time, in spite of foreign war and domestic
sedition, the Unionist party has pursued a steady policy of practical
social reform, and the administrative and legislative record of the
last twenty years will compare favourably with that of any period of
our history.

But no party can afford to rely upon its past achievements. How is the
Unionist party going to confront the great problems of the present
day? The greatest of these problems, as I shall never cease to preach
to my countrymen, is the maintenance of the great heritage which we
owe to the courage, the enterprise, and the self-sacrifice of our
forefathers, who built up one of the greatest Empires in history by,
on the whole, the most honourable means. The epoch of expansion is
pretty nearly past, but there remains before us a great work of
development and consolidation. And that is a work which should appeal
especially to Scotsmen. The Scottish people have borne a great part,
great out of proportion to their numbers, in building up our common
British heritage. They are taking a foremost part in it to-day. All
over the world, as settlers in Canada, in Australia, or in South
Africa, as administrators in India and elsewhere, they are among the
sturdiest pillars on which the great Imperial fabric rests. I am not
talking in the air. I am speaking from my personal experience, and
only saying in public here to-night what I have said in private a
hundred times, that as an agent of my country in distant lands I have
had endless occasion to appreciate the support given to the British
cause by the ability, the courage, the shrewd sense and the broad
Imperial instinct of many Scotsmen. And therefore I look with
confidence to a Scottish audience to support my appeal for continuous
national effort in making the most of the British Empire. I say this
is not a matter with regard to which we can afford to rest on our
laurels. We must either go forward or we shall go back. And especially
ought we to go forward in developing co-operation, on a basis of
equality and partnership, with the great self-governing communities
of our race in the distant portions of the world, else they will drift
away from us. Do not let us think for a moment that we can afford such
another fiasco as the late Colonial Conference. Do not let us imagine
for a moment that we can go to sleep over the questions then raised,
and not one of them settled, for four years, only to find ourselves
unprepared when the next Conference meets. A cordial social welcome,
many toasts, many dinners, are all very well in their way, but they
are not enough. What is wanted is a real understanding of what our
fellow countrymen across the seas are driving at, and a real attempt
to meet them in their efforts to keep us a united family. All that our
present rulers seem able to do is to misunderstand, and therefore
unconsciously to misrepresent--I do not question their good
intentions, but I think they are struck with mental blindness in this
matter--to misrepresent the attitude of the colonists and greatly to
exaggerate the difficulties of meeting them half-way. The speeches of
Ministers on a question like that of Colonial Preference leave upon me
the most deplorable impression. One would have thought that, if they
could not get over the objections which they feel to meeting the
advances of our kinsmen, they would at least show some sort of regret
at their failure. But not a bit of it. Their one idea all along has
been to magnify the difficulties in the way in order to make party
capital out of the business. They saw their way to a good cry about
"taxing the food of the people," the big and the little loaf, and so
forth, and they went racing after it, regardless of everything but its
electioneering value. From first to last there has been the same
desire to make the worst of things, sometimes by very disingenuous
means. First of all it was said that there was "no Colonial offer."
But when the representatives of the Colonies came here, and all in the
plainest terms offered us preference for preference, this device
evidently had to be abandoned. So then it was asserted that, in order
to give preference to the Colonies, we must tax raw materials. But
this move again was promptly checkmated by the clear and repeated
declaration of the Colonial representatives that they did not expect
us to tax raw materials. And so nothing was left to Ministers,
determined as they were to wriggle out of any agreement with the
Colonies at all costs, except to fall back on the old, weary
parrot-cry--"Will you tax corn?" "Will you tax butter?" and so on
through the whole list of articles of common consumption, the taxation
of any one of which was thought to be valuable as an electioneering
bogey.

For my own part, I am not the least bit frightened by any of these
questions. If I am asked whether I would tax this or tax that, it may
be proof of great depravity on my part, but I say without hesitation,
that, for a sufficient object, I should not have the least objection
to putting two shillings a quarter on wheat or twopence a pound on
butter. But I must add that the whole argument nauseates me. What sort
of opinion must these gentlemen have of their fellow countrymen, if
they think that the question of a farthing on the quartern loaf or
half a farthing on the pat of butter is going to outweigh in their
minds every national consideration? And these are the men who accused
Mr. Chamberlain of wishing to unite the Empire by sordid bonds! It is
indeed extraordinary and to my mind almost heartrending to see how
this question of Tariff Reform continues to be discussed on the lowest
grounds, and how its higher and wider aspects seem to be so constantly
neglected. Yet we have no excuse for ignoring them. The Colonial
advocates of Preference, and especially Mr. Deakin, with whose point
of view I thoroughly agree, have repeatedly explained the great
political, national, and I might almost say moral aspects of that
policy. There is a great deal more in it than a readjustment of
duties--twopence off this and a penny on that. I do not say that such
details are not important. When the time comes I am prepared to
show--and I am an old hand at these things--that the objections which
loom so large in many eyes can really be very easily circumvented. But
I would not attempt to bother my fellow countrymen with complicated
changes in their fiscal arrangements, or even with the discussion of
them, if it were not for the bigness of the principle that is
involved.

I wish to look at it from two points of view. The principle which
lies at the root of Tariff Reform, in its Imperial aspect, is the
national principle. The people of these great dominions beyond the
seas are no strangers to us. They are our own kith and kin. We do not
wish to deal with them, even in merely material matters, on the same
basis as with strangers. That is the great difference between us
Tariff Reformers and the Cobdenites. The Cobdenite only looks at the
commercial side. He is a cosmopolitan. He does not care from whom he
buys, or to whom he sells. He does not care about the ulterior effects
of his trading, whether it promotes British industry or ruins it;
whether it assists the growth of the kindred States, or only enriches
foreign countries. To us Tariff Reformers these matters are of moment,
and of the most tremendous moment. We do not undervalue our great
foreign trade, and I for one am convinced that there is nothing in the
principles of Tariff Reform which will injure that trade. Quite the
reverse. But we do hold that our first concern is with the industry
and productive capacities of our own country, and our next with those
of the great kindred countries across the seas. We hold that a wise
fiscal policy would help to direct commerce into channels which would
not only assist the British worker, but also assist Colonial
development, and make for the greater and more rapid growth of those
countries, which not only contain our best customers, but our fellow
citizens.

That, I say, is one aspect of the matter. But then there is the other
side--the question of social reform in this country. Now here again we
differ from the Cobdenite. The Cobdenite is an individualist. He
believes that private enterprise, working under a system of unfettered
competition, with cheapness as its supreme object, is the surest road
to universal well-being. The Tariff Reformer also believes in private
enterprise, but he does not believe that the mere blind struggle for
individual gain is going to produce the most beneficent results. He
does not believe in cheapness if it is the result of sweating or of
underpaid labour. He keeps before him as the main object of all
domestic policy the gradual, steady elevation of the standard of life
throughout the community; and he believes that the action of the
State deliberately directed to the encouragement of British industry,
not merely by tariffs, is part and parcel of any sound national policy
and of true Imperialism. And please observe that in a number of cases
the Radical party itself has abandoned Cobdenism. Pure individualism
went to the wall in the Factory Acts, and it is going to the wall
every day in our domestic legislation. It is solely with regard to
this matter of imports that the Radical party still cling to the
Cobdenite doctrine, and the consequence is that their policy has
become a mass of inconsistencies. It is devoid of any logical
foundation whatever.

I know that there are many people, sound Unionists at heart, who still
have a difficulty about accepting the doctrines of the Tariff
Reformers. My belief is that, if they could only look at the matter
from the broad national and Imperial point of view, they would come to
alter their convictions. I am not advocating Tariff Reform as in
itself the greatest of human objects. But it seems to me the key of
the position. It seems to me that, without it, we can neither take the
first steps towards drawing closer the bonds between the mother
country and the great self-governing States of the Empire; nor
maintain the prosperity of the British worker in face of unfair
foreign competition; nor obtain that large and elastic revenue which
is absolutely essential, if we are going to pursue a policy of social
reform and mean real business. I cannot but hope that many of those
who still shy at Tariff Reform, when they come to look at it from this
point of view--to see it as I see it, not as an isolated thing, but as
an essential and necessary part of a comprehensive national
policy--will rally to our cause. I have travelled along that road
myself. I have been a Cobdenite myself--I am not ashamed of it. But I
have come to see that the doctrine of free imports--the religion of
free imports, I ought to say--as it is practised in this country
to-day, is inconsistent with social reform, inconsistent with fair
play to British industry, and inconsistent with the development and
consolidation of the Empire. And therefore I rejoice that, in the
really great speech which he delivered last night, the leader of the
Unionist party has once more unhesitatingly affirmed his adhesion to
the principles which I have been trying, in my feebler way, to
advocate here this evening. My own conviction is that, when these
principles are understood in all their bearings, they will command the
approval of the mass of the people. And even in Scotland, where I dare
say it is a very uphill fight, I look forward with confidence to their
ultimate victory. Do not let us be discouraged if the fight is long
and the progress slow. The great permanent influences are on our side.
On the one hand there is the growth of the Empire, with all the
opportunities which it affords; on the other there is the increasing
determination of foreign nations to keep their business to themselves.
These potent facts, which have already converted so many leading
minds, will in due time make themselves felt in ever-widening circles.
And they will not fail to produce their effect upon the shrewd
practical sense of the Scottish people, especially when combined with
an appeal to the patriotic instincts of a race which has done so much
to make the Empire what it is, and which has such a supreme interest
in its maintenance and consolidation.



UNIONISTS AND SOCIAL REFORM

Rugby, November 19, 1907


There has been such a deluge of talk during the last three weeks that
I doubt whether it is possible for me, or any man, to make a further
contribution to the discussion which will have any freshness or value.
But inasmuch as you probably do not all read all the speeches, you may
perhaps be willing to hear from me a condensed summary of what it all
comes to--of course, from my point of view, which no doubt is not
quite the same as that of the Prime Minister or Mr. Asquith. Now, from
my point of view, there has been a considerable clearing of the air,
and we ought all to be in a position to take a more practical and less
exaggerated view of the situation. Speaking as a Tariff Reformer, I
think that those people, with whom Tariff Reformers agree on almost
all other political questions, but who are strongly and
conscientiously opposed to anything like what they call tampering with
our fiscal system, must by now understand a little better than they
did before what Tariff Reformers really aim at, and must begin to see
that there is nothing so very monstrous or revolutionary about our
proposals. I hope they may also begin to see why it is that Tariff
Reformers are so persistent and so insistent upon their own particular
view. There is something very attractive in the argument which says
that, since Tariff Reform is a stumbling-block to many good Unionists,
it should be dropped, and our ranks closed in defence of an effective
Second Chamber, and in defence of all our institutions against
revolutionary attacks directed upon the existing order of society. In
so far as this is an argument for tolerance and against
excommunicating people because they do not agree with me about Tariff
Reform, I am entirely in accord with it. I am only a convert to Tariff
Reform myself, although I am not a very recent convert, for at the
beginning of 1903, at Bloemfontein, I was instrumental in inducing all
the South African Colonies to give a substantial preference to goods
of British origin. I was instrumental in doing that some months before
the great Tariff Reform campaign was inaugurated in this country by
its leading champion, Mr. Chamberlain. But while I am all for personal
tolerance, I am opposed to any compromise on the question of
principle. I am not opposed to it from any perverseness or any
obstinacy. I am opposed to it because I see clearly that dropping
Tariff Reform will knock the bottom out of a policy which I believe is
not only right in itself, but is the only effective defence of the
Union and of many other things which are very dear to us--I mean a
policy of constructive Imperialism, and of steady, consistent,
unhasting, and unresting Social Reform.

I have never advocated Tariff Reform as a nostrum or as a panacea. I
have never pretended that it is by itself alone sufficient to cure all
the evils inherent in our social system, or alone sufficient as a bond
of Empire. What I contend is that without it, without recovering our
fiscal freedom, without recovering the power to deal with Customs
Duties in accordance with the conditions of the present time and not
the conditions of fifty years ago, we cannot carry out any of those
measures which it is most necessary that we should carry out. Without
it we are unable to defend ourselves against illegitimate foreign
competition; we are unable to enter into those trade arrangements with
the great self-governing States of the British Crown across the seas,
which are calculated to bestow the most far-reaching benefits upon
them and upon us; and we are unable to obtain the revenue which is
required for a policy of progressive Social Reform. I hope that people
otherwise in agreement with us, who have hitherto not seen their way
to get over their objections to Tariff Reform, will, nevertheless,
find themselves able to accept that principle, when they regard it,
not as an isolated thing, but as an essential part of a great national
and Imperial policy.

Of course, they will have to see it as it is, and not as it is
represented by its opponents. The opponents of Tariff Reform have a
very easy method of arguing with its supporters. They say that any
departure whatsoever from our present fiscal system necessarily
involves taxing raw materials, and must necessarily result in high and
prohibitive duties, which will upset our foreign trade, and will be
ruinous and disorganising to the whole business of the country. But
Tariff Reformers are not going to frame their duties in order to suit
the argumentative convenience of Mr. Asquith. They are going to be
guided by wholly different considerations from that. It is curious
that everybody opposed to Tariff Reform says that Tariff Reformers
intend to tax raw material, while Tariff Reformers themselves have
steadily said they do not. I ask you in that respect to take the
description of a policy of Tariff Reform from those who advocate it,
and not from those who oppose it. And as for the argument about high
prohibitive duties, I wish people would read the reports or summaries
of the reports of the Tariff Commission. They contain not only the
most valuable collection that exists anywhere of the present facts
about almost every branch of British industry but they are also an
authoritative source from which to draw inferences as to the
intentions of Tariff Reformers. Now the Tariff Reform Commission have
not attempted to frame a complete tariff, a scale of duties for all
articles imported into this country, and wisely, because, if they had
tried to do that, people would have said that they were arrogating to
themselves the duties of Parliament. What they have done is to show by
a few instances that a policy of Tariff Reform is not a thing in the
air, not a mere thing of phrases and catchwords, but is a practical,
businesslike working policy. They have drawn up what may be called
experimental scales of duties, which are merely suggestions for
consideration, with respect to a number of articles under the
principal heads of British imports, such as, for instance,
agricultural imports and imports of iron and steel. These experimental
duties vary on the average from something like 5 per cent. to 10 per
cent. on the value of the articles. In no one case in my recollection
do they exceed 10 per cent.

But then the opponents of Tariff Reform say: "Yes. That is all very
well. But though you may begin with moderate duties, you are bound to
proceed to higher ones. It is in the nature of things that you should
go on increasing and increasing, and in the end we shall all be
ruined." I must say that seems to me great nonsense. It reminds me of
nothing so much as the fearful warnings which I have read in the least
judicious sort of temperance literature, and sometimes heard from
temperance orators of the more extreme type--the sort of warning, I
mean, that, if you once begin touching anything stronger than water,
you are bound to go on till you end by beating your wife and die in a
workhouse. But you and I know perfectly well that it is possible to
have an occasional glass of beer or glass of wine, or even, low be it
spoken, a little whisky, without beating or wanting to beat anybody,
and without coming to such a terrible end. The argument against the
use of anything from its abuse has always struck me as one of the
feeblest of arguments. And just see how particularly absurd it is in
the present case. The effect of duties on foreign imports, even such
moderate and carefully devised duties as those to which I have
referred, would, we are told, be ruinous to British trade. It would
place intolerable burdens upon the people. Yet for all that the people
would, it appears, insist on increasing these burdens. Surely it is as
clear as a pike-staff that, if the duties which Tariff Reformers
advocate were to produce the evils which Free Importers allege that
they would produce, these duties, so far from being inevitably
maintained and increased, would not survive one General Election after
their imposition.

It is not only with regard to Tariff Reform that I think the air is
clearer. The Unionist Party has to my mind escaped another danger
which was quite as great as that of allowing the Tariff question to be
pushed on one side, and that was the danger of being frightened by the
scare, which the noisy spreading of certain subversive doctrines has
lately caused, into a purely negative and defensive attitude; of
ceasing to be, as it has been, a popular and progressive party, and
becoming merely the embodiment of upper and middle class prejudices
and alarms. I do not say that there are not many projects in the air
which are calculated to excite alarm, but they can only be
successfully resisted on frankly democratic and popular lines. My own
feeling is--I may be quite wrong, but I state my opinion for what it
is worth--that there is far less danger of the democracy going wrong
about domestic questions than there is of its going wrong about
foreign and Imperial questions, and for this simple reason, that with
regard to domestic questions they have their own sense and experience
to guide them.

If a mistake is made in domestic policy its consequences are rapidly
felt, and no amount of fine talking will induce people to persist in
courses which are affecting them injuriously in their daily lives. You
have thus a constant and effective check upon those who are disposed
to try dangerous experiments, or to go too fast even on lines which
may be in themselves laudable, as the experience of recent municipal
elections, among other things, clearly shows. But with regard to
Imperial questions, to our great and vital interests in distant parts
of the earth, there is necessarily neither the same amount of personal
knowledge on the part of the electorate, nor do the consequences of a
mistaken policy recoil so directly and so unmistakably upon them.
These subjects, therefore, are the happy hunting-ground of the
visionary and the phrase-maker. I have seen the people of this country
talked into a policy with regard to South Africa at once so injurious
to their own interests, and so base towards those who had thrown in
their lot with us and trusted us, that, if the British nation had only
known what that policy really meant, they would have spat it out of
their mouths. And I tremble every day lest, on the vital question of
Defence, the pressure of well-meaning but ignorant idealists, or the
meaner influence of vote-catching demagogues, should lead this
Government or, indeed, any Government, to curtail the provisions,
already none too ample, for the safety of the Empire, in order to pose
as the friends of peace or as special adepts in economy. I know these
savings of a million or two a year over say five or ten years, which
cost you fifty or one hundred millions, wasted through unreadiness
when the crisis comes, to say nothing of the waste of gallant lives
even more precious. This is the kind of question about which the
democracy is liable to be misled, being without the corrective of
direct personal contact with the facts to keep it straight. And it is
unpopular and up-hill work to go on reminding people of the vastness
of the duty and the responsibility which the control of so great a
portion of the earth's surface, with a dependent population of three
or four hundred millions, necessarily involves; to go on reminding
them, too, how their own prosperity and even existence in these
islands are linked by a hundred subtle but not always obvious or
superficially apparent threads with the maintenance of those great
external possessions.

I say these are difficulties which any party or any man, who is
prepared to do his duty by the electorate of this country, not merely
to ingratiate himself with them for the moment, but to win their
confidence by deserving it, by telling them the truth, by serving
their permanent interests and not their passing moods, is bound to
face. For my own part, I have always been perfectly frank on these
questions. I have maintained on many platforms, I am prepared to
maintain here to-night and shall always maintain, although this is a
subject on which it may be long before my views are included in any
party programme--I say I shall always maintain that real security is
not possible without citizen service, and that the training of every
able-bodied man to be capable of taking part, if need be, in the
defence of his country, is not only good for the country but good for
the man--and would materially assist in the solution of many other
problems, social and economic. But being, as I am, thus
uncompromising, and quite prepared to find myself unpopular, on these
vital questions of national security, and of our Imperial duties and
responsibilities, I can perhaps afford to say, without being suspected
of fawning or of wishing to play the demagogue myself, that in the
matter of domestic reform I am not easy to frighten, and that I have a
very great trust in the essential fair-mindedness and good sense of
the great body of my fellow countrymen with regard to questions which
come within their own direct cognisance. And therefore it was most
reassuring to me at any rate--and I hope it was to you--to observe,
that that large section of the Unionist Party which met at Birmingham
last week, not so much by any resolutions or formal programme--for
there was nothing very novel in these--as by the whole tone and temper
of its proceedings, affirmed in the most emphatic manner the
essentially progressive and democratic character of Unionism. The
greatest danger I hold to the Unionist Party and to the nation is that
the ideals of national strength and Imperial consolidation on the one
hand, and of democratic progress and domestic reform on the other,
should be dissevered, and that people should come to regard as
antagonistic objects which are essentially related and complementary
to one another. The upholders of the Union, the upholders of the
Empire, the upholders of the fundamental institutions of the State,
must not only be, but must be seen and known to be, the strenuous and
constant assailants of those two great related curses of our social
system--irregular employment and unhealthy conditions of life--and of
all the various causes which lead to them.

I cannot stay here to enumerate those causes, but I will mention a
few of them. There is the defective training of children, defective
physical training to begin with, and then the failure to equip them
with any particular and definite form of skill. There is the irregular
way in which new centres of population are allowed to spring up, so
that we go on creating fresh slums as fast as we pull down the old
rookeries. There is the depopulation of the countryside, and the
influx of foreign paupers into our already overcrowded towns. There is
the undermining of old-established and valuable British industries by
unfair foreign competition. That is not an exhaustive list, but it is
sufficient to illustrate my meaning. Well, wherever these and similar
evils are eating away the health and independence of our working
people, there the foundations of the Empire are being undermined, for
it is the race that makes the Empire. Loud is the call to every true
Unionist, to every true Imperialist, to come to the rescue.

And now at the risk of wearying you there is one other subject to
which I would like specially to refer, lest I should be accused of
deliberately giving it the go-by, and that is the question of old age
pensions. It is not a reform altogether of the same nature as those on
which I have been dwelling, nor is it perhaps the kind of reform about
which I feel the greatest enthusiasm, because I would rather attack
the causes, which lead to that irregularity of employment and that
under-payment which prevents people from providing for their own old
age themselves, than merely remedy the evils arising from it. But I
accept the fact that under present conditions, which it may be that a
progressive policy in time will alter, a sufficient case for State aid
in the matter of old age pensions has been made out, and I believe
that no party is going to oppose the introduction of old age pensions.
But, on the other hand, I foresee great difficulties and great
disputes over the question of the manner in which the money is to be
provided. I know how our Radical friends will wish to provide the
money. They will want to get it, in the first instance, by starving
the Army and the Navy. To that way of providing it I hope the Unionist
Party, however unpopular such a course may be, and however liable to
misrepresentation it may be, will oppose an iron resistance, because
this is an utterly rotten and bad way of financing old age pensions,
or anything else. But that method alone, however far it is carried,
will not provide money enough, and there will be an attempt to raise
the rest by taxes levied exclusively on the rich. I am against that
also, because it is thoroughly wrong in principle. I am not against
making the rich pay, to the full extent of their capacity, for great
national purposes, even for national purposes in which they have no
direct interest. But I am not prepared to see them made to pay
exclusively. Let all pay according to their means. It is a thoroughly
vicious idea that money should be taken out of the pocket of one man,
however rich, in order to be put into the pocket of another, however
poor. That is a bad, anti-national principle, and I hope the
Unionist Party will take a firm stand against it. And this is an
additional reason why we should raise whatever money may be necessary
by duties upon foreign imports, because in that way all will
contribute. No doubt the rich will contribute the bulk of the money
through the duties on imported luxuries, but there will be some
contribution, as there ought to be some contribution, from every class
of the people.

And now, in conclusion, one word about purely practical
considerations. We Unionists, if you will allow me to call myself a
Unionist--at any rate I have explained quite frankly what I mean by
the term--are not a class party, but a national party. That being so,
it is surely of the utmost importance that men of all classes should
participate in every branch and every grade of the work of the
Unionist Party. Why should we not have Unionist Labour members as well
as Radical Labour members? I think that the working classes of this
country are misrepresented in the eyes of the public of this country
and of the world, as long as they appear to have no leaders in
Parliament except the men who concoct and pass those machine-made
resolutions with which we are so familiar in the reports of Trade
Union Congresses. I am not speaking now about their resolutions on
trade questions, which they thoroughly understand, but about
resolutions on such subjects as foreign politics, the Army and Navy,
and Colonial and Imperial questions, resolutions which are always
upon the same monotonous lines. I do not believe that the working
classes are the unpatriotic, anti-national, down-with-the-army,
up-with-the-foreigner, take-it-lying-down class of Little Englanders
that they are constantly represented to be. I do not believe it for a
moment. I have heard Imperial questions discussed by working men in
excellent speeches, not only eloquent speeches, but speeches showing a
broad grasp and a truly Imperial spirit, and I should like speeches of
that kind to be heard in the House of Commons as an antidote to the
sort of preaching which we get from the present Labour members. And
what I say about the higher posts in the Unionist Army applies equally
to all other ranks. No Unionist member or Unionist candidate is really
well served unless he has a number of men of the working class on what
I may call his political staff. And I say this not merely for
electioneering reasons. This is just one of the cases in which
considerations of party interest coincide--I wish they always or often
did--with considerations of a higher character. There is nothing more
calculated to remove class prejudice and antagonism than the
co-operation of men of different classes on the same body for the same
public end. And there is this about the aims of Unionism, that they
are best calculated to teach the value of such co-operation; to bring
home to men of all classes their essential inter-dependence on one
another, as well as to bring home to each individual the pettiness and
meanness of personal vanity and ambition in the presence of anything
so great, so stately, as the common heritage and traditions of the
British race.



SWEATED INDUSTRIES

Oxford, December 5, 1907


This exhibition is one of a series which are being held in different
parts of the country with the object of directing attention, or rather
of keeping it directed, to the conditions under which a number of
articles, many of them articles of primary necessity, are at present
being produced, and with the object also of improving the lot of the
people engaged in the production of those articles. Now this matter is
one of great national importance, because the sweated workers are
numbered by hundreds of thousands, and because their poverty and the
resulting evils affect many beside themselves, and exercise a
depressing influence on large classes of the community. What do we
mean by sweating? I will give you a definition laid down by a
Parliamentary Committee, which made a most exhaustive inquiry into
the subject: "Unduly low rates of wages, excessive hours of work, and
insanitary condition of the workplaces." You may say that this is a
state of things against which our instincts of humanity and charity
revolt. And that is perfectly true, but I do not propose to approach
the question from that point of view to-day. I want to approach it
from the economic and political standpoint. But when I say political I
do not mean it in any party sense. This is not a party question; may
it never become one. The organisers of this exhibition have done what
lay in their power to prevent the blighting and corrosive influence of
party from being extended to it. The fact that the position which I
occupy at this moment will be occupied to-morrow by the wife of a
distinguished member of the present Government (Mrs. Herbert
Gladstone), and on Saturday by a leading member of the Labour Party
(Mr. G.N. Barnes, M.P.), shows that this is a cause in which people of
all parties can co-operate. The more we deal with sweating on these
lines, the more we deal with it on its merits or demerits without
ulterior motive, the more likely we shall be to make a beginning in
the removal of those evils against which our crusade is directed.

My view is, that the sweating system impoverishes and weakens the
whole community, because it saps the stamina and diminishes the
productive power of thousands of workers, and these in their turn drag
others down with them. "Unduly low rates of wages, excessive hours of
labour, insanitary condition of workplaces"--what does all that mean?
It means an industry essentially rotten and unsound. To say that the
labourer is worthy of his hire is not only the expression of a natural
instinct of justice, but it embodies an economic truth. One does not
need to be a Socialist, not, at least, a Socialist in the sense in
which the word is ordinarily used, as designating a man who desires
that all instruments of production should become common property--one
does not need to be a Socialist in that sense in order to realise that
an industry, which does not provide those engaged in it with
sufficient to keep them in health is essentially unsound. Used-up
capital must be replaced, and of all forms of capital the most
fundamental and indispensable is the human energy necessarily consumed
in the work of production. A sweated industry does not provide for the
replacing of that kind of capital. It squanders its human material. It
consumes more energy in the work it exacts than the remuneration it
gives is capable of replacing. The workers in sweated industries are
not able to live on their wages. As it is, they live miserably, grow
old too soon, and bring up sickly children. But they would not live at
all, were it not for the fact that their inadequate wages are
supplemented, directly, in many cases, by out-relief, and indirectly
by numerous forms of charity. In one way or another the community has
to make good the inefficiency that sweating produces. In one way or
another the community ultimately pays, and it is my firm belief that
it pays far more in the long run under the present system than if all
workers were self-supporting. If a true account could be kept, it
would be found that anything which the community gains by the
cheapness of articles produced under the sweating system is more than
outweighed by the indirect loss involved in the inevitable subsidising
of a sweated industry. That would be found to be the result, even if
no account were taken of the greatest loss of all, the loss arising
from the inefficiency of the sweated workers and of their children,
for sweating is calculated to perpetuate inefficiency and
degeneration.

The question is: Can anything be done? Of the three related
evils--unduly low rates of wages, excessive hours of labour, and
insanitary condition of work-places--it is evident that the first
applies equally to sweated workers in factories and at home, but the
two others are to some extent guarded against, in factories, by
existing legislation. This is the reason why some people would like to
see all work done for wages transferred to factories. Broadly
speaking, I sympathise with that view. But if it were universally
carried out at the present moment, it would inflict an enormous amount
of suffering and injustice on those who add to their incomes by home
work. Hence the problem is twofold. First, can we extend to workers in
their own homes that degree or protection in respect of hours and
sanitary conditions which the law already gives to workers in
factories? And secondly, can we do anything to obtain for sweated
workers, whether in homes or factories, rates of remuneration less
palpably inadequate? Now it certainly seems impossible to limit the
hours of workers, especially adult workers, in their own homes. More
can be done to ensure sanitary conditions of work. Much has been done
already, so far as the structural condition of dwellings is concerned.
But I am afraid that the measures necessary to introduce what may be
called the factory standard of sanitariness into every room, where
work is being done for wages, would involve an amount of inspection
and interference with the domestic lives of hundreds of thousands of
people which might create such unpopularity as to defeat its own
object. I do not say that nothing more should be attempted in that
direction, quite the reverse; but I say that nothing which can be
attempted in that direction really goes to the root of the evil, which
is the insufficiency of the wage. How can you possibly make it healthy
for a woman, living in a single room, perhaps with children, but even
without, to work twelve or fourteen hours a day for seven or eight
shillings a week, and at the same time to do her own cooking, washing,
and so on. How much food is she likely to have? How much time will be
hers to keep the place clean and tidy? An increase of wages would not
make sanitary regulations unnecessary, but it would make their
observance more possible.

An increase of wages then is the primary condition of any real
improvement in the lives of the sweated workers. So the point is this.
Can we do anything by law to screw up the remuneration of the
worst-paid workers to the minimum necessary for tolerable human
existence? I know that many people think it impossible, but my answer
is that the fixing of a limit below which wages shall not fall is
already not the exception but the rule in this country. That may seem
a rather startling statement, but I believe I can prove it. Take the
case of the State, the greatest of all employers. The State does not
allow the rates of pay even of its humblest employés to be decided by
the scramble for employment. The State cannot afford, nor can any
great municipality afford, to pay wages on which it is obviously
impossible to live. There would be an immediate outcry. Here then you
have a case of vast extent in which a downward limit of wages is fixed
by public opinion. Take, again, any of the great staple industries of
the country, the cotton industry, the iron and steel industry, and
many others. In the case of these industries rates of remuneration are
fixed in innumerable instances by agreement between the whole body of
employers in a particular trade and district on the one hand and the
whole body of employés on the other. The result is to exclude
unregulated competition and to secure the same wages for the same
work. No doubt there is an element--and this is a point of great
importance--which enters into the determination of wages in these
organised trades, but which does not enter in the same degree into the
determination of the salaries paid by the State. That element is the
consideration of what the employers can afford to pay. This question
is constantly being threshed out between them and the workpeople,
with resulting agreements. The number of such agreements is very
large, and the provisions contained in them often regulate the rate of
remuneration for various classes of workers with the greatest
minuteness. But the great object, and the principal effect of all
these agreements, is this: it is to ensure uniformity of remuneration,
the same wage for the same work, and to protect the most necessitous
and most helpless workers from being forced to take less than the
employers can afford to pay. Broadly speaking, the rate of pay, in
these highly organised industries, is determined by the value of the
work and not by the need of the worker. That makes an enormous
difference. But in sweated industries this is not the case. Sweated
industries are the unorganised industries, those in which there is no
possibility of organisation among the workers. Here the individual
worker, without resources and without backing, is left, in the
struggle of unregulated competition, to take whatever he can get,
regardless of what others may be getting for the same work and-of the
value of the work itself. Hence the extraordinary inequality of
payment for the same kind of work and the generally low average of
payment which are the distinguishing features of all sweated
industries.

Now, if you have followed this rather dry argument, I shall probably
have your concurrence when I say, that the proposal that the State
should intervene to secure, not an all-round minimum wage, but the
same wages for the same work, and nothing less than the standard rate
of his particular work for every worker, is not a proposition that the
State should do something new, or exceptional, or impracticable. It is
a proposal that the State should do for the weakest and most helpless
trades what the strongly-organised trades already do for themselves. I
cannot see that there is anything unreasonable, much less
revolutionary or subversive, in that suggestion.

This proposal has taken practical form in a Bill presented to the
House of Commons last session. Whether the measure reached its second
reading or not I do not know. It was a Bill for the establishment of
Wages Boards in certain industries employing great numbers of
workpeople, such as tailoring, shirtmaking, and so on. The industries
selected were those in which the employés, though numerous, are
hopelessly disorganised and unable to make a bargain for themselves.
And the Bill provided that where any six persons, whether masters or
employés, applied to the Home Secretary for the establishment of a
Wages Board, such a Board should be created in the particular industry
and district concerned; that it should consist of representatives of
employers and employed in equal proportions, with an impartial
chairman; and that it should have the widest possible discretion to
fix rates of remuneration. If Wages Boards were established, as the
Bill proposed, they would simply do for sweated trades what is already
constantly being done in organised trades, with no doubt one important
difference, that the decisions of these Boards would be enforceable by
law. Now that no doubt may seem to many of you a drastic proposition.
But I would strongly recommend any one interested in the subject to
study a recently-published Blue-book, one of the most interesting I
have ever read, which contains the evidence given before the House of
Commons Committee on Home Work. That Blue-book throws floods of light
on the conditions which have led to the proposal of Wages Boards, on
the way in which these Boards would be likely to work, and on the
results of the operation of such Boards in the Colony of Victoria,
where they have existed for more than ten years, and now apply to more
than forty industries. The perusal of that evidence would, I feel
sure, remove some at least of the most obvious objections to this
proposed remedy for sweating.

Many people look askance, and justly look askance, at the interference
of the State in anything so complicated and technical as a schedule of
wages for any particular industry. But the point to bear in mind is
this, that the wages, which under this proposal would be enforceable
by law, would be wages that had been fixed for a particular industry
in a particular district by persons intimately cognisant with all the
circumstances, and, more than that, by persons having the deepest
common interest to avoid anything which could injure the industry. The
rates of remuneration so arrived at would be based on the
consideration of what the employers could afford to pay and yet retain
such a reasonable rate of profit as would lead to their remaining in
the industry. Such a regulation of wages would be as great a
protection to the best employers against the cut-throat competition of
unscrupulous rivals as it would be to the workers against being
compelled to sell their labour for less than its value. There is
plenty of evidence that the regulation of wages would be welcomed by
many employers. And as for the fear sometimes expressed, that it would
injure the weakest and least efficient workers, because, with
increased wages, it would no longer be profitable to employ them, it
must be borne in mind that people of that class are mainly home
workers, and as remuneration for home work must be based on the piece,
there would be no reason why they should not continue to be employed.
No doubt they would not benefit as much as more efficient workers from
increased rates, but _pro tanto_ they would still benefit, and that is
a consideration of great importance. But even if this were not the
case, I would still contend, that it was unjustifiable to allow
thousands of people to remain in a preventable state of misery and
degradation all their lives, merely in order to keep a tenth of their
number out of the workhouse a few years longer.

I have only one more word to say. I come back to the supreme interest
of the community in the efficiency and welfare of all its members, to
say nothing of the removal of the stain upon its honour and conscience
which continued tolerance of this evil involves. That to my mind is
the greatest consideration of all. That is the true reason, as it
would be the sufficient justification, for the intervention of the
State. And, or my own part, I feel no doubt that, whether by the
adoption of such a measure as we have been considering, or by some
other enactment, steps will before long be taken for the removal of
this national disgrace.



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