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Commons that Great Britain was thenceforth going to be a free-trading country.
The transition in England to a policy of free trade seems thus to have been mingled with the necessities and circumstances of the time, and can hardly be attributed to mere devotion to theory. As under all tariffs, the manufacturing classes wanted low duties on articles of food, and so the abolition of the Corn Laws was a “victory of the great manufacturers over the land-owning aristocracy.” (1). Dear flour would have meant higher wages, and the continuation of the Corn Laws would have meant dear flour. There was at the same time no more need for protection of manufactures in England against foreign competition.
Although England was so to speak free of her mercantilistic policy by 1850, yet we find that by that time the customs tariff at the Cape was not altered from the way it was fixed by the Orders-in-Council of August 10, 1840, May 8, 1841, and March 11, 1842. By these Acts the period of duration of the duties was not limited. (2). The export duties at the Cape and Natal had, however, by this time disappeared. (3). There were still certain discriminating provisions in force in the tariff. Note the following:-
1. Whenever any foreign article was imported into the Cape through the United Kingdom — after it had been stored there and exported from the warehouse, or the duties thereon. if they were paid there had been drawn back — there was charged on such goods over and above the duties imposed in the Cape tariff on similar goods from Great Britain or its possessions, three-fourths of the difference (if any) between such duties and the duties charged on British goods.
2. Whenever any foreign article charged in the tariff with duty, was imported into the Colony from the United Kingdom, after it had been entered there for consumption, and re-exported without any drawback of duty which had been paid thereon, such article was liable only to such duty as was paid in the tariff on similar British goods. (4).
The import duties in general were 5 per cent. ad valorem on British goods and 12 per cent. ad valorem on foreign goods, while as a result of the general policy of exclusion we find
1. C. J. Fuchs: The Trade Policy of Great Britain, p. 8.
2. See Cape of Good Hope Almanac for 1851, p. 67; British Parliamentary Papers for 1851, Volume 34, p. 45.
3. Ibid. for 1854 -- 1855, Volume 36.
that for the year ending January 5, 1850, the imports into the Colony were carried as follows: in British ships 900,000 pounds value (sterling); in foreign ships, 87,000 pounds; that is over 90 per cent. of imported goods were carried in British ships. (1).
In 1850 letters patent were issued granting the Cape representative government, consisting of a Legislative Council and a House of Assembly. Owing to the Eighth Kaffir War, which had assumed serious dimensions, the constitution did not go into effect until 1852. Now, crown colonies and those possessing representative government may be said to belong to the same class, and the Colonial Office had thus complete .control of the tariff policy of the Cape, as well as over its whole administration. The result was that the Cape tariff was for the time being framed in accord with the ideas then prevailing in Great Britain. The duties imposed under the tariff of 1855, thus, were aimed to be purely for revenue purposes. The principle was followed that no differential duties were to be levied either in favour of the mother country or of any of the colonies. (2). In 1854 the law 16 and 17 Victoria, C. 107, abolished the differential duties in favour of the mother country. The Act also gave equal treatment to British, colonial and foreign shipping. This course meant that the death-knell of the Navigation Acts had been sounded.
On March 5, 1852, the Cape Legislature had been empowered by an Order-in-Council to alter and repeal certain customs duties. The Cape had also obtained a certain amount of fiscal freedom in 1853. (3). By the Customs Tariff Act of the year 1855 (4), under the various influences of the time, the Cape received the simplest tariff it ever had under British administration. It was really non protective, and was meant to be a tariff for revenue only, as will be seen below. All the preferences had disappeared -- not even wine was spared. . They were forced out of the tariff of 1855, and again forced into it in 1903. (5). The tariff would certainly have been framed otherwise, but the Colony had for the time being to
1. Theal: Progress of South Africa in the Century, p. 275.
2. See Fuchs: The Trade Policy of Great Britain, pp. 231, 226, 223.
3. See Mills: Colonial Constitutions, pp. 153 159.
4. Act No. 1 of 1855, passed on May 4, 1855 by the first parliament of the Cape, 1854 — 1858: See Statutes of the Cape of Good Hope.
5. See O.Y.B. No. 3, p. 701. (Dutch).
be a free trader because England was a free trader.
“England abolished colonial preferences and adopted free trade because she had no longer any need for restrictions (1) to secure her own market, and was interested in having the world's markets thrown open to her.” (2). It was even enacted in the Australian Constitution Act of 1850, clause 27, that the Governor and Legislative Council of the Colony could impose such duties as they thought fit on the importation into the Colony of any goods, wares and merchandise whatsoever, whether the produce or manufacture of or imported from the United Kingdom, or any foreign country, but forbade them to impose differential duties. (3).
A few items of the tariff of 1855 will indicate to us its simplicity: (4) coffee paid 12s. 6d. per hundredweight; spirits of all sorts paid 3s. per gallon; sugar, unrefined, paid 3s. 6d. per hundredweight; wine, in bottles, per gallon, 2s. 6d.; not in bottles, 2s. Goods not enumerated or described, paid ? pounds 10 shillings for every 100 pounds (sterling) value.
In the revised edition of the “Rules and Regulations for Her Majesty's Colonial Service, issued in 1856, it was provided that "the customs establishments in all the colonies were under the control and management of the several colonial governments, and the colonial legislatures were empowered to establish their own customs regulations and rates of duty;' (section 399). By the Imperial Customs Act of 1857 and the Act of 1869 “the colonies (obtained) the right of making entire provision for the management and regulation of their customs, trade and navigation,” subject of course to the limitation that no differential duties were to be imposed within the Empire. (5).
1. The only remaining restrictions on the colonies were:
They were denied the right to favour their own industries by means of import duties or bounties. This was removed in 1859 as a result, perhaps, of Canada's policy.
b. They were not free to enter into reciprocity treaties with other colonies or with foreign countries. This was removed for the Cape in 1873 - a time when the desire for closer union had begun to develop there.
They were bound by Imperial treaties in the framing of which they were not consulted. This was finally removed in 1897.
2. Davidson: Commercial Federation and Colonial Trade, p. 54.
5. Todd : Parliamentary Government in the British Colonies, pp. 178 — 179. See also p. 132.
The system of preferences was contrary to free trade doctrines and we find that after free trade was introduced into England, the first result was that the differential duty in favour of Canadian wheat was abolished. Two years later, in accordance with her free trade policy, the mother country abolished all differential duties granted by the colonies in her favour, although the preferences which she granted the colonies were not altogether stopped. (1). The Cape wine industry, for example, was compensated to a certain extent by an Order-in-Council of October 31, 1848, which entitled any exporter of good wine produced and manufactured at the Cape to enter free of duty one gallon of spirits in respect of every ten gallons so exported. (2).
In 1860 colonial preferential treatment in the “home” market was stopped (3), and from now on an agitation for preferential treatment of Cape wines was kept up, as we shall see later. In 1907 Mr. Asquith said at the Imperial Conference, that a preference on Cape wines would be a flagrant and undeniable departure from the very basis of the principle of free trade. (4).
It was during this transition period in the British commer cial policy relative to the Cape which we have been describing, that new geographical and political units made their appearance on the map of South Africa. The Republic of Natal became the Colony of Natal, the Orange River Sovereignty became the Orange Free State, and the big tract of country between the Limpopo and the Vaal Rivers became the Transvaal Republic. With these new units there came new tariff policies, and with the new tariff policies there came the developments which ultimately led to the formation of the South African Customs Union. In the next few chapters these different tariff policies and the developments ensuing therefrom will be traced.
From 1806, then, till the triumph of Free Trade in England, everything was done to protect British trade with South Africa. The trade was minutely regulated by means of Ordersin-Council. This "external protection,''as it were, was effected by means of: (a) Higher duties on foreign goods than on British goods. (b) Preferential treatment of some colonial goods when imported into England. (c) Preferential treatment of British shipping. (d) Privileges granted to the char
1. Fuchs: The Trade Policy of Great Britain, p. 219.
tered British East India Company. This monopolistic control of the Cape trade under two successive rêgimes was retarding the natural development of the Colony, and Wilmot says: "Far different from the rapid progress of the American Colonies, the advance of the Cape was slow and unsatisfactory. A state of torpor, only broken by discontent, was its normal condition, and no real change was affected until the thraldom of mercantile monopoly was thrown off for ever.” (1). Wilmot is here speaking of the monopoly of the Dutch East India Company, but his words apply with almost equal force to some of the monopolistic tendencies during the first half of the 19th century.
1. History of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope from its discovery till the year 1819, by A. Wilmot; from 1820 — 1868 by the honourable J. C. Chase, M.L.C. (Cape Town: J. C. Juta, Wale Street, 1869), p. 130.