A Further Plea for Protection
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
A Further Plea for Protection
Sir, — The reason why I do not admit the present prosperity of the Hawick Boroughs is that it is not true. I have just returned from them, and I find both employers and employed much dissatisfied with the present state of things. The whole South of Scotland wool industry is in a bad way, as may be shown by the fact that the number of hands engaged fell from 40,034 in 1891 to 24,906 in 1901. In the single town of Galashiels, which is one of the Hawick Boroughs, the decrease was 30 per cent. Trade is bad and tends to become worse. Many of the mills are working half time. And yet, while these our countrymen are forced either to emigrate, as many of them do, or to accept half wages, enough foreign woollen goods come toll-free into our markets to give employment to 200 large factories and fifty yarn spinning mills. The estimate is by Mr. Charles John Wilson, of Hawick, a well-known authority upon the subject. Is it not repugnant to one's reason and one's sense of justice that the nations which bar our own goods should flood our own market unopposed, and drive our people from their work?
Your short article appears to me to be quite a microcosm of Free Trade fallacies and fancies. Because of one single incident, the receipts of the Hawick Banks, a cocksure theory is put forward which has absolutely no relation to the actual facts. Let the gentleman who wrote the article go to the Hawick Boroughs and explain their exceptional prosperity to the half-time workmen — or rather let me earnestly advise him not to do so, for they are practical people with no sympathy with abstract reasoning.
So far as the figures go, we do not seem to start from any common ground. I have no information more recent or more accurate than the Board of Trade return for 1902. as expressed in the Blue-book of August 1903. I append the figures with references to the page so that they can readily be verified. I deal with manufactured woollen goods in the first instance. Our total export (p. 36) was £15,264,000. Of this £6,996,000 (p. 45) went to British possessions, leaving £9,195,000 (p. 41) for foreign countries. Now the inroads into our own markets amounted to £10,326,316 imported from Protectionist countries (pp. 77-89). The balance, therefore, between what we send to these countries and what we receive from them is £1,131,316 against us. I therefore repeat what I said in my previous letter that if we never sold a yard or woollens abroad, and if we kept our own trade (home and colonial), our output would be greater than it is at present.
There follows the old discredited argument that if we increase that output we must decrease our output of something else. The only things that we would decrease are our poor rates and our totals of emigration. The first essential for a nation, as it seems to me, is to hold tight to its own home market. The reason for this is that every gain in your home market in any commodity involves an increased output of some other home commodity in order to pay for it. If, for example, Hawick tweeds are being sold in Sheffield, it needs an increase of Sheffield steel in order to pay for them. But if Hawick tweeds are being sold in Liege, only one set of British workers instead of two sets are reaping the advantage. Let us regain our own home market, and then we may hope to share that rate of advance which Germany and America have enjoyed during the last twenty years. It is a deplorable thing to think that our export of woollens in 1901 was exactly what it was in 1859, forty-two years before. At present under our rotten system there is only one really flourishing trade in this country, and that is coal-mining, which drives our people underground, causes them to spend their lives in unhealthy and low-class labour, squanders our capital, and gives our rivals the material by which they may wrest from us those highly specialised trades in which we used to excel.
I am, &c.,
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
Undershaw, Hindhead, Haslemere, Feb. 5.