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THE-! P0nm


THE P0nm<rat|4ire BJetltn. NEWPORT, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 1877. COMMERCIAL DEPRESSION. IN whatever direction we look, the state of trade" presents a melancholy topic for conver- sation, and there can be no doubt that the complaints which are heard on all hands have a deeper reason than that English instinct of grumbling which is sometimes said to be a national characteristic. It would scarcely be too much to say that the present condition of business in most of our large towns is too bad for mere casual complaining. There is a kind of life or death struggle going on, and it has to be fought with closed mouths and clenched teeth. There is no breath to spare for words, and, indeed, so many serious words have been used on less pressing occasions, that there are few left which are emphatic enough to suit the present conflict. Besides-even customary WOlds might be' taken at their serious and real meaning now. Men anxious to conceal how they are holding on to every rope and spar to avoid shipwreck, and yet fearing lest their true position should become known, and the know- ledge should lead to their being swept away altogether, with loss of credit and the proba- bility of future recovery, are naturally reticent. Yet, doubtless there are numbers of manu- facturers who continue their works only to increase stock, the accumulation of which will have the effect of keeping down prices. The pressure is probably greatest upon manu- facturers and dealers:who are chiefly concerned with articles of luxury. The number of the members of the aristocracy who possess great wealth is comparatively small, and during the past few years there has been a considerable diminution both in the number and in the means of the class of nouveaux riches-the people who become rapidly wealthy by success- tul speculations. These are mostly the best customers of the wine merchant, the carriage builder, the upholsterer, the cabinet-maker, the jeweller, and the producers of those objects which are supposed to represent luxury and refinement. The commercial world, however, has not recovered from the serious lack of confidence which followed the over-speculation and the fraudulent enterprises that brought sudden ruin to so many who thought they could suddenly realize large fortunes by risking a moderate competency. It is not at all likely that the days of great joint-stock enterprises will quickly return, and if they should be likely to bring with them such calamities as those from which many have suffered, we may well hope that they have gone for ever. At the same time, we are driven to wonder what is to revive trade and bring back a measure of national prosperity. In the en. deavour to find out what is to be done, every- body is asking what is the cause of the lethargy under which we appear to be sinking. There are not wanting those who regard it as the inevitable result of what they would call our Quixotic attitude with regard to free trade. At Exeter lately, at the meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, the CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER pointed out the impracticability of our reverting to any measures of protection, and he vindicated the free trade principles with which he began his political career as the pupil of Mr. Gladstone. The Chancellor said it would be far better that we should suffer for years from unwise restrictions on the part of other nations, than that we should en- courage them to believe that those restrictions had our secret approbation-because they would say. "see what we have brought the great apostleof free trade to do !"—that, there- fore, cost what it may, we must never draw back. Some of those nations with whom we have entered into" commercial treaties" are so far from "reciprocity" that many of our manufacturers are virtually excluded from their markets, while they can sweep our own markets of raw material. Of course it will be said, and we are quite willing to admit, that we are suffering, not from free trade, but from the want of it. We are just now bearing the consequences of the unenlightened condition of other nations, and when once we have con- vinced them of the righteousness and wisdom A:ir: of unrestricted commerce, all will go well. The f worst of it is, that nations who have not found I immediate advantage from partial free trade seem inclined to go back to protection, simply because they have missed the benefits that they would have experienced if they had thrown in their lot with us. General Grant, the other day, in reply to a representation that it would be a good thing for the United States to abolish her prohibi- tive tariffs, shrewdly "guessed" that England had not adopted free trade till her mannfactur- iug industries had beeu pretty firmly established, and thereby hinted that when America was in a position to compete with us all over the world, she also might begin to relax her pro- hibitive duties. At the quarterly meeting of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the president could announce no improvement in trade, though he believed that England would get over the present bad times, as she had sur- vived previous periods of depression. Mr. MASON, however, was ready to attribute the present suffering to the operations of trades unions. There can be no doubt that a large majority of the industrial classes of this country are ignorant of the laws that govern wages and production, and that they would, if left to their own devices, revive a system of protection as close as that of the Middle Ages. That the present demonstrations of trades unions, and frequent strikes, have a decided effect in the depression and even the pre- vention of industrial enterprise, will not be dis- puted and at the same time, we have to meet the competition of foreigners who handicap us by maintaining import duties against our rrnnrls whilp. thfiv thrnst lis nnt. nf nfd-ior markets, and overbid us for our raw material. To this is now added a general paralysis of labour, and the importation of American, Belgian, German, and Italian workmen, so that we may yet witness the occupation of our own labour markets by foreign craftsmen who are ready to supersede English industry because Englishmen have become too independent to work, or too exacting to let their employers live out of their capital.




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