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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Sir Conan Doyle and the Motor-Car

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Sir Conan Doyle and the Motor-Car is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Spectator No. 3918, on 1st august 1903.

Conan Doyle suggests a £100 tax on imported cars either to support British industry or increase State treasury.


Sir Conan Doyle and the Motor-Car

The Spectator (No. 3918, p. 165)

Sir, — When you had done my motor-car the honour of making it the text of a leading article in the Spectator of July 18th, I felt that it would be an anti-climax to pursue the matter further. Since a fresh crop of letters have been elicited, however, by my illustration, I feel that I should like to add a word, if only to acknowledge the extreme good humour and courtesy which your correspondents have shown. Of these letters some seem hardly to meet the point. For example, I would freely admit that an author would waste his time if he made his own clothes, because it is not his trade to make clothes. But we do make motor-cars, and make them well. If a £100 tax were levied on every one that entered the country, then either the State would be a £100 richer each time, or the order would go to sustain a British industry. This industry is not an exotic one, such as the cultivation of wine would be, but it is a purely natural one. It has, however, some lost ground to make up, and I cannot even now admit that it would be a national evil if it were aided by the State to keep within the country the large sum which was spent last year on foreign motors. As to Mr. Allhusen's interesting illustration, I presume that a Protective tariff would be drawn up with discrimination, and that such productive machinery as he describes would be exempt from taxation. Even if the advocates of Protection gained the day, there would certainly be so powerful a minority in the country that there would be no danger of high-handed or unreasonable action on the part of the Government. I was much struck by the remark in your leading article that our artisans were limited in number, and that there was no room for any great expansion of productive industry. This hardly tallies, however, with Mr. Charles Booth's statistics, which show over 30 per cent of the workers receiving less than 23s. a week. There is here a broad margin of labour which could be worked up into higher forms. And finally, one always comes back to the assertion that the imports are the payment for the exports, and the greater the discrepancy, the greater the profit. If it is so, then I must admit that the country flourishes amazingly. But I look at other lands, and I see countries which send out more than they take in, and which should, therefore, be in evil case. And yet they are not so, — they present every sign of prosperity. When a fact will not fit in with a theory, then the theory must go by the board. I am told that no gold passes in return for imports, and yet I read of the American market being restored by the huge cash payments for the American crops. Among all your correspondents not one has spoken authoritatively upon this question of the transfer of bullion, and it does certainly appear to lie deep at the root of the matter. — With apologies for my repeated intrusions upon your space, I am, Sir, &c.,

Arthur Conan Doyle

Undershaw, Hindhead.

[Sir Conan Doyle is so courteous and fair-minded a controversialist that his letters are always welcome. We do not wish to repeat the arguments so admirably set forth by Mr. Evans and by Mr. Buxton, and must therefore refer him to their letters. — Ed. Spectator.]




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