Classic History Books


The History of England by A. E. Pollard

the colonies and abroad, and of British imports from, and exports to, them.

The enormous increase in the import of corn helped, in fact, to double British exports within ten years.
This was the result of the general freeing of trade, of which the repeal of the Corn Laws was only a part.

In the third quarter of the eighteenth century there were hundreds of Acts, covering thousands of pages,

on the statute-book, imposing an infinity of chaotic duties on every kind of import; they made the

customs costly to collect and easy to evade; and the industry they stimulated most was smuggling. The

younger Pitt, influenced by Adam Smith, whose Wealth of Nations appeared in 1776, reduced

and simplified these duties; but 443 Acts still survived when in 1825 Huskisson and other enlightened

statesmen secured their consolidation and reduction to eleven. This Tariff Reform, as its supporters

called it, was a step towards Free Trade. Peel gradually adopted its principles, induced partly by the

failure of his efforts to use existing duties for purposes of retaliation; and between 1841 and 1846 he

abolished the duties on 605 articles and reduced them on 1035 more, imposing a direct income-tax to

replace the indirect taxes thus repealed. The process was completed by Gladstone, and what is called

Free Trade was established as the fundamental principle of English financial policy.

This does not mean that no duties are imposed on exports or imports; it simply means that such duties as
are levied are imposed for the sake of revenue, and to protect neither the consumer from the export of

commodities he desires to purchase, nor the manufacturer from the import of those he wishes to make.

The great interests connected with land and manufactures had ceased to hang together, and fell

separately. Protection of manufactured goods did not long survive the successful attack which

manufacturers had levelled against the protected produce of the landlords and the farmers. The repeal of

the Navigation Acts rounded off the system; British shipping, indeed, needed no protection, but the

admission of colonial goods free of duty and the removal of the embargo on their trade with foreign

countries may not have compensated the colonies for the loss of their preference in the British market.

The whole trend of affairs, however, both conscious and unconscious, was to make the world one vast

hive of industry, instead of an infinite number of self-sufficient, separate hives; the village market had

expanded into the provincial market, the provincial into the national, the national into the imperial, and

the imperial into the world market.

We have not by any means exhausted the results of the Industrial Revolution, and most of our social
problems may be traced directly or indirectly to this source. Its most general effect was to emphasize and

exaggerate the tendency towards specialization. Not only have most workers now but one kind of work;

that work becomes a smaller and smaller part of increasingly complex industrial processes; and

concentration thereon makes it more and more difficult for the worker to turn to other labour, if his

employment fails. The specialist's lack of all-round capacity is natural and notorious. Hence most serious

results follow the slightest dislocation of national economy. This specialization has also important

psychological effects. A farmer, with his varied outdoor occupations, feels little craving for relief and

relaxation. The factory hand, with his attention riveted for hours at a stretch on the wearisome iteration of

machinery, requires recreation and distraction: naturally he is a prey to unwholesome stimulants, such as

drink, betting, or the yellow press. The more educated and morally restrained, however, seek intellectual

stimulus, and the modern popular demand for culture arises largely from the need of something to relieve

the grey monotony of industrial labour.

So, too, the problems of poverty, local government, and sanitation have been created or intensified by the
Industrial Revolution. It made capitalists of the few and wage-earners of the many; and the tendency of

wages towards a minimum and of hours of labour towards a maximum has only been counteracted by

 

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