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tural trade both ways, it being understood that in any case the original intention of Section 27 of the Railway and Canal Act of 1888 will be enforced against any preference to imports from foreign countries. The rates and taxes on railways now amount to 4,800,000l. per annum.
4. Transport systems can be worked in conjunction with newly-created markets for produce in the towns, facilities for storage to small producers can be provided, and, in conjunction with transport systems, public authorities should provide means of collecting and pooling produce so as to obtain the rebates given to larger consignments. The Post Office or other authorities should run motor vans for the smaller parcels of produce.
5. Legal procedure and acquisition of land for transport purposes can be cheapened. Our railways under laissez faire policy have cost 52,000l. a mile, as compared with 20,000l. for Germany, and 12,000l. for the United States; and this huge extra expendi ture is a severe handicap on trade for ever and ever. The railway companies and Liverpool were able to put the Manchester Ship Canal to an extra expenditure of 400,000l. in Parliamentary costs alone. How much it cost the rival transport systems is unknown.
Mr. Gladstone, in his famous Silver Streak' article in the Edinburgh Review, declared with profound truth that when a nation is given extraordinary natural advantages they are often accompanied by a blindness which which prevents prevents her from seeing how to utilise them. Placing my own interpretation on the words, I would say that the road of suffering is what teaches a nation to make roads. England had to make roads on the sea or perish, and she made them. But within her own border she possessed such extraordinary natural advantages with security from her Navy, coal and iron near the sea instead of 400 miles inland as in Germany, her unrivalled natural ports, her own position at the gates of Europe, so that, as Emerson said, England's best admiral could not have anchored her in a more favourable position; all these things combined to blind a people. We sank into the complacency of laissez faire, allowing transport systems to be run for the benefit of the few instead of the many. Once before, laissez faire was the rule in England, in the middle of the eighteenth century, and then the roads were described as the worst in Europe, and impassable for the greater part of the year. Our commerce was poor. Holland, with absolutely no natural advantages beyond a surface lending itself to cheap transport by canals to the sea, became the foremost commercial power in the world. Then England abandoned laissez faire, and a great industrial revival set in with increasing
population. I believe we are once again on the eve of such an awakening, only one not merely concerning the roads uniting two kingdoms together such as Scotland and England, but the roads of an Empire by sea and by land in the full consciousness that the rivalry of nations has changed its ground to one for the possession of the cheapest transport facilities. So some nations are striving to reach the sea, so other Governments are working with financial groups to acquire railways, so shipping magnates are always at the elbow of the Kaiser, and so England is waking up to the challenge. It is not sea power alone that gives the English speaking peoples their supremacy. It is because they possess a great hold over the transport facilities of the world in so great a slice of its coast line and ports, nearly all the submarine cables, most of the wireless telegraph system on the sea or by the sea, 58 per cent. of the railways and 60 per cent. of the shipping. These provide the sinews of trade, and therefore the sinews of war. Being vital, being the keys of the position, there is an ever increasing tendency under laisser faire of those controlling transport to take advantage, to levy an increasing toll so that the roads are there, but they cease to be cheap, and the power of the nation is sapped by its own service. It must not be. Cheap transport is our life blood. It carries cheap power and cheap capital into our borders, and makes us ever richer and more powerful. Russia builds a railway into a desert. It becomes the source of her cotton supplies; Canada touches the West with railways, and we see the most stupendous material progress that has been witnessed in any generation of the world's history. It is the magic of transport which turns earth into gold.
ECONOMICS AND POLICY
The fundamental principle underlying my plea for a new system of preference is that empires are not held together so much by trade as by transport in the form of vehicles, whether on wheels or floating, and by all that belongs to them on land or sea, such as warehouses, wharves, docks, and railway sidings. Hence we talk of natural barriers between nations when there exists some dividing line such as a chain of mountains offering an obstacle to transport. However unpromising the soil of a country, that country can wrest greatness if the conditions are favourable to enterprise in the provision of cheap transport. Whether it be trade, government, or any other variety of social activity, cheap transport is a vital factor, and so the Romans built roads. Its development increases the military as well as the commercial power, and ministers to every other force working within the nation. If a dock is built to accommodate an Olympic, it is
equally available for a Dreadnought. If a railway line is doubled to carry goods or passengers, it can also carry soldiers or munitions of war. Realising that this possession of transport was vital, Adam Smith threw overboard his free trade theories the moment he came to deal with the navigation laws. Always in English history we will find a school which believed in transport or maritime interests, as opposed to the purely military school which believed in the mere acquisition of territory qua territory. So the House of Lords in 1708, the year of Oudenarde, found it necessary to petition the Throne to keep in mind above all other things the fostering of the maritime interests of the country.
Years ago Jevons wrote a book to prove that the prosperity of nations depends on coal, and his work made such an impression that Gladstone, in the sixties of the last century, quoted it at length in a famous Budget speech as proving that we were using up our coal, or exhausting our capital, and we should therefore reduce the National Debt. Gladstone was right in assuming that economic principles must dictate policy, but was Jevons' theory correct? Not if the view I put forward is sound that cheap transport is the source of all progressive prosperity, for thus we would expect to find that the source of our coal supplies is not a vital matter provided the fuel can be brought cheaply to our doors. A case in point is the iron ore of Spain, which, instead of being worked on the spot, is brought very cheaply to England for the purpose of making pig iron, steel, etc. Without the cheap transport service this would be commercially impossible. A converse case, where cheap transport does not exist, is afforded by hilly countries. They were notoriously backward until advantage could be taken of the fact that nature transported power for nothing in waterfalls. The moment a nation secures cheap transport she secures cheap power for industry, and therefore tempts capital to embark in enterprises within her territory. The workings of transport affect civilisation to such a degree that we may not only say that it is transport alone which enables the Anglo-Saxon race to keep to the same language over the earth's wide surface, but that had our cheap transport of speech in writing, printing, telegraphs, telephones and gramophones been in existence a thousand years ago, there would to-day be not one thousand languages but only the three or four from which they sprang. Had these means of transport existed only six generations ago, Burke would never have spoken of the impossibility of keeping the North American colonies because of the three thousand miles of separating ocean. The development of cheap transport, whether in the carriage of speech, goods, or human beings, is the unifying agent of nationality and civilisation, and should therefore be the chief material aim of
all good government. It lies at the root of all our knowledge, as indeed knowledge itself began to advance from the day the exploration of the world to the west of England set free the founts of thought by the discovery that the world was round, and priestly wisdom, anchored to its cloisters, was not infallible.
THE PREVALENCE OF SCEPTICISM
In no direction do our leaders in thought show more scepticism than over the illimitable possibilities of cheap transport. When suggestions were made in Parliament in the eighteenth century for extra speed in locomotion, a speed in locomotion, a statesman replied that if we were told by some enterprising man that he would transport us from London to Edinburgh in seven days, should we not very properly adjudge his proper place to be a lunatic asylum? Stephenson, the great railway engineer, declared in Parliament that after an examination of the ground he could affirm that it was physically impossible to construct the Suez Canal. Palmerston placed it in a similar category to the South Sea Bubble, and held it, if it could be constructed, as injurious to England. It was worthy to rank, he said, among the many bubble schemes that from time to time had been palmed off upon gullible capitalists.'
Thiers said that railways would never be of any use for the carriage of goods. The Quarterly Review, at the time of the construction of the first railway, asked, 'What could be more palpably absurd or ridiculous than the prospect held out of locomotives travelling twice as fast as stage coaches?' These instances could be multiplied. I believe that what has been achieved, even under a system of laissez faire, will be stimulated to an extraordinary degree if private enterprise is backed by the allied governments of the Empire, but if a spirit of scepticism leads to my proposals being brushed aside we may lose our opportunities. It is our best chance of convincing the people and uniting the Empire, so that we may face with confidence the future rivalry of Germany, though to-day she has fifty per cent. greater population and she is increasing twice as fast.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO ENGLAND
The old Romans built roads and conquered the world. roads lead to Rome' epitomised their Empire. I have asked for a new policy of preference, but let me finish by an appeal to revive the old policy of Rome suited to the new times that are before us. Let us ever bear in mind that there is but one law for trade, not, as the Radicals contend, that it goes to the cheapest market; or, as their opponents say, trade follows the
flag. Trade follows the path of least resistance which is the cheapest road. It only follows the flag if the flag is carried on cheap transports. So again we may say that empires are not held together by trade, but by the cheap transport which carries the trade. Our political maps, like our political cries, are mostly fallacious. They show the towns of England as near together and New York far away. That is for children at school. When they are constructed to show distances in shillings and pence, and tariff walls are drawn as hills, we shall realise that Montreal is nearly twice as far off as almost any American port, and New York is nearer to London than almost any English town. Then Great Britain will wake up to the need of revising the map of the world. The elector will realise that he is not only taxed to maintain a market into which the foreigner comes free of all taxation, but that the system of transport which invades our market is one of preference for the foreigner. He will see on his map that foreign butter is nearer than British butter, and American meat than British meat. In that day the Unionist party will have no difficulty in persuading the electors to realise that the future greatness of their race can only be won by building the roads which will make our Empire the wonder of the world.
It may be useful to give a few examples, drawn from many official records, of the state of affairs produced by the present system of laissez faire, resulting in rings and conferences which, as pointed out elsewhere, are illegal in the United States.
1. In 1902 the Government of Hong Kong, in an official despatch, pointed out that, owing to the Conference, general merchandise was paying 46s. a ton from England, as compared with 30s. a ton from New York, and piece goods from Manchester 42s. 6d., as compared with 20s. from New York, though the latter was 2000 miles further off.
2. The Birchenough Report of 1902 said of the shipping preference to America, After careful inquiry, I am convinced that no single circumstance has done so much to promote the growth of American trade during the past twelve months as these low freight charges between America and South African ports. It is not pleasant to reflect that they are the result of the action. of British, and not of foreign steamship companies.'
3. In 1904 the Associated Chambers of Commerce unanimously called attention to the fact that 'the rates of freight charged by the shipping companies carrying to South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, are so high in some instances as to cause the diversion of trade to the Continent and America, where much more reasonable rates obtain.'