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Freedom of trade was, as we were assured, to bring with it the era of universal peace; yet do we seem to be further removed from it than we have ever been. English armies are now greater than they ever were before, in time of peace, and wars more frequent. The period referred to by Mr. Cobden, had been one of almost constant conflicts; of which Affghanistan and Scinde, Burmah and the Punjab, China and Africa, Syria and Russia, have been the seats. Peace with Russia was followed by war with Persia -- that, in turn, being succeeded by a second war with China, having in view the opening of a market for cloth and iron, and the further extension of trade.* Look where we may, throughout history, the trader and the soldier are found marching by each other's side. Why it has been, and ever must be so, may readily be seen. The greater the trader's power, the longer is the time elapsing between production and consumption - the slower is the circulation — the larger is the proportion borne by movable to fixed capital — the poorer are the people -- and the more
are the opportunities for pilfering, by means of indirect taxation, the means required for the support of armies, and for the payment of the class that lives, moves, and has its being, in virtue of the exercise of its appropriative powers.
§ 6. Of all oppressions, there is none that is at all comparable with that resulting from trading centralization. Tending, as it does, to the final, and utter, destruction of the value of land and labor, nothing escapes it — neither the palace of the great proprietor, nor the poorest cabin on his estate. How it operates, will be seen on an examination of the following diagram :
* The reasons for the commencement of a war likely to cause the destruction of hundreds of thousands of lives, and hundreds of millions of the property of unoffending people, thus given by the leading English journal, furnish a proper exhibit of the morals of trading centralization:
" The advancing enterprise of England came in contact with the isolated fabric of Chinese society. The paltry details, whether this act is legal or that act judicious, passed into oblivion. In the regular and inevitable development of the world, it was necessary that, at some period, an adventurous maritime people, like the English, should force themselves into connection with a feeble, unprogressing race like the Chinese, inhabiting a rich country open to our trade." - London Times.
We have, here, a wheel with spokes of enormous length. In the performance of a revolution, its hub moves through yards, while the tire, in the same time, passes over thousands of miles - the slightest change in the action of the one producing, therefore, immense changes in the other. Such being the case, nothing short of the most perfect steadiness of movement, would prevent the total disruption of its various parts. What, then, would be its condition, were the hub to be turned, at one moment, at the rate of a yard in a minute; at another, two; at a third, ten; and at a fourth, thirty — coming, next, to an almost total stop ? Under such circumstances, must not the machine be shattered into fragments—the hub alone remaining whole and undisturbed ?
Sach, exactly, is the effect of trading centralization — acceleration of motion at the centre, producing acceleration increasing as the square of the distance, to be followed by ruin, increasing in its intensity, as we pass from the place where the power is applied, towards those upon which it acts. Hence it is, that changes in the monetary world of Britain, have always produced effects so fearful in the newer settlements of the United States. So, however, is it, everywhere. At one moment, the machine moves rapidly, and the poor Hindoo is urged to raise more cotton. At the next, the machine having almost stopped, the price has fallen, and he is ruined. The farmers and planters, throughout the world, find their commodities rising and falling in price from day to day, and from year to year; exactly in accordance with the more or less motion at the centre, on which they are so much dependent. Wheat being dear in London, it is dear everywhere. Cotton and tobacco, sugar and coffee, being cheap there, they are cheap everywhere. If dear, the producers are enriched : if cheap, the sheriff sells them out. Under such circumstances, there can be none of that steadiness of motion required for the conversion of movable into fixed property-the highest evidence of civilization. Therefore it is, that, in all the countries dependent on the chances and changes of the British market, the value of land is little more than nominal — nearly all the existing property consisting of raw materials on their road to market, or finished commodities on their way to the consumer, to be so nearly absorbed on their passage, that the man who raises food can obtain little clothing, while he who raises cotton perishes for want of food.
The past half century presents a series of financial crises - all originating in England. In 1815, the wheel moved rapidly, and farmers and planters were prosperous. Three years after, it moved slowly, and all were ruined. Five years later, motion was increased, and all again prospered. Four years later — the wheel having almost stopped — ruin and desolation were spread throughout the earth. The following fifteen years exhibit a succession of changes of motion — ending, at length, in 1841, with the almost total ruin of the agricultural nations of the world. What, however, was the condition of those who, standing at the centre, controlled the movement ? They were enriched — their money commanding large interest, while property and commodities were cheap. The trader profits by change - variations of price enabling him to buy cheaply and sell dearly. Trading centralization giving him this power, throughout the earth, the more perfect it becomes, the more imperious is the necessity imposed upon the agricultural world for abstaining from the conversion of movable into fixed capital - the greater is the necessity for ships — the larger the amount of exports and imports - and the less the value of land and labor throughout the countries subject to it.
$ 7. “The history of the colonies,” said an eminent British statesman, “is that of a series of losses, and of the destruction of capital; and if, to the many millions of private capital which have been thus wasted, were added some hundred millions that have been raised by British taxes, and spent on account of the colonies, the total loss to the British public of wealth which the colonies have occasioned, would appear to be quite enormous.
That this is, and must be, true, will be obvious to all who reflect on the object had in view, in the maintenance of so many costly establishments. Gibraltar facilitates the smuggling of cloth, and thus prevents the people of Spain from combining for the establishment of mills for making cloth at home. The dependence on foreign mills and ships is, thereby, much increased; but what is the profit that thence results to England ? None whatsoever — the whole of the merchandise sent to Spain being, in amount, far less than the cost of maintaining the soldiers and sailors required for doing the work. Malta and the Ionian Islands do the same for Southern Europe, and with the same result — the cost being thrice greater than all the profits realized. Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, have annihilated the manufactures and commerce of India. Hong Kong and Singapore are maintained as dépôts whence to smuggle opium, and thus destroy the Chinese people. Quebec and Montreal facilitate the violation of American laws; and thus are almost all the British colonies used for the single and simple purpose of destroying the power of association throughout the world.
Look where we may, throughout the countries following in the lead of England, we obtain the same results — a daily increasing difficulty of developing the resources of the earth, consequent upon increased dependence on the will of those who control the movements of the one great market. Land and men, therefore, decline in value-slavery taking the place of freedom; and with every step in that direction, recovery becomes more difficult. †
* PARNELL: On Financial Reform.
† “Let me tell you,” said Law to the Marquis d'Argenson, “that the kingdom of France is governed by thirty intendants. You have,” he continued, “neither Parliament, nor estates, nor governors-nothing but thirty masters of requests, on whom, so far as the provinces are concerned, welfare or misery, plenty or want, entirely depend.” Trading centralization tends to make of the world a single kingdom, plundered by a multitude of intendants. * Report of the Secretary of the Treasury, 1845. Of all the documents published by the U. S. Government, since its first establishment, there is
$ 8. In the growth of the United States, we have the nearest approach to the natural system first described. From the days of the Puritans, to the present time, we find the few and widely scattered people of the early settlements gradually coming together, to form counties, towns, and States - the whole ultimately resolving themselves into an Union, based upon the theory of leaving to local institutions the exclusive management of local affairs, and confining the general administration to those without the limits of the States.
In Massachusetts, this approach is most complete — local action being there more perfect than in any other country of the world. Passing south and west, we find a gradually diminishing tendency towards concentration, accompanied by growing centralization, until, on arriving at the extreme south, we find communities wholly composed of slaves and traders — the former being obliged to bring to the latter all the produce of their labors, to be by them distributed. North and East, we find much fixed and little movable property. South and West land having little value — the proportion of fixed property is small, while that of the movable is large.
Based upon the idea of local action, or concentration, the Federal Constitution, or act of union, was intended for its promotion. More or less, such was the general idea of those charged with the administration of the government, during the first half century that followed its establishment. Since then, howeverthe policy of the country, as finally settled in 1846, having tended exclusively to the promotion of trade, and to the establishment of indirect taxation as the permanent means of raising revenue —“the diminished importation of highly protected articles, and the progressive substitution of domestic rivals," has come to be regarded as a grievance—requiring to be remedied. So rapidly, at that date, was the substitution going on, and so rapidly was commerce relieving the people from the necessity for trade, that import duties were, as they were assured, “becoming dead letters, except for purposes of prohibition "threatening, “if not reduced, to compel their advocates to resort to direct taxation to support the government."*