Tuesday, 19 November 2013


To the Editor.      
Sir,— Last week you published a cable from London stating that "The Times" says British trade is declining. Nearly a year ago, from what I could see, and from what I could hear, and from what I read in the press, I came to the conclusion that the decline of British trade was inevitable. Since then I have been closely watching the British trade returns, but these, to my surprise, seemed to indicate that the trade was expanding. Now, however, "The Times" steps forward and says the trade is declining. There can be no doubt that "The Times" has closely examined all the figures, and we can rest satisfied that British trade is on the decline. I feel quite certain that when the special fillip given to trade by the wars in South Africa and China is over, the decline in trade will be most marked, and the effect very far reaching indeed.
So far the remarks of "The Times" have not been noticed by the local press. If this decline of trade were one of the ordinary vicissitudes of trade it would not call for any particular notice, but if my judgment is correct, this is not an ordinary fluctuation of trade, but probably the commencement of a decline of trade that will never be recovered, and will ultimately leave England far behind other nations in the matter of commerce. On this subject I base my conclusions on the fact that the character of the English nation has changed, and is becoming solely militant and imperialistic. As John Burns recently said, "An industrial people have become imperialised, a peaceful people ; militarised." I submit that this change will result most injuriously to the growth and development of trade, and has done so throughout the history of the world. Its evil effects are to be seen everywhere. The attention of the people is withdrawn from commercial pursuits and directed to what is called military glory. In England to day there are thousands and thousands of young men just leaving school who a few years ago would have entered on commercial pursuits, but who are now clamouring, and clamouring too successfully, to their parents to be allowed to join the army. The same thing is taking place in the ranks of the working classes, and labour for the factory is daily becoming scarcer. In fact, the evil has permeated the whole of the British people. Not only is this evil raging in England, but it is raging still more in these Australian colonies, and here, as in England, it is encouraged by wretched Jingo Governments and by a money-making press. How can we expect England to compete in the matter of trade with a nation like America, when we find the British Government encouraging the growth among the people of every national sentiment that is antagonistic to trade.
In America, Germany, France, and other countries we find the Governments devoting the utmost attention to the question of developing trade. It is part of the national policies of these Governments to do so. In England the Jingo Government ignores such questions as part of their policy, but adopt with success the policy of encouraging militarism and imperialism. If my judgment is correct, there can be one result only from this policy, and I shall expect to see British trade continue to decline and England lose her place as the first nation of the world. If we read the proceedings of the Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the Empire, held in London last June, we will notice many references to the dangers that beset English trade, and when a deputation was appointed by the Congress to wait on Lord Salisbury and ask him to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the state of British trade, he declined to meet them, saying he considered the time was inopportune to discuss the matter. And this generally is the attitude of the British Government to matters of trade.
That the character of the British people has changed, and is still changing, cannot, I think, be denied. That this change is for the worse, I also think, cannot be denied. Moral considerations have not now the weight with the British mind that they once had. In the popular estimation might is becoming right. The nation is growing hypocritical. It professes to be Christian and to follow the teachings of the founder of that religion, but as a matter of fact they cheer for everything that is deadly opposed to His teaching. Even the clergy, almost without exception, have joined in singing the glory of battlefields instead of teaching the doctrines of peace and arbitration. They have become the blind leaders of the blind. At a time when the conscience of other nations of the world seems to be turning to peace and arbitration and trade development, the British conscience seems to be turning to imperialism and militarism. Nations that once almost looked with envy at England's moral worth now regard her from the opposite standpoint and are boycotting her merchandise. As a result of Jingo Government in England the people will shortly find £200,000,000 added to the national debt, increased taxation to meet the interest on this sum and to provide for increased military expenditure, a rapidly declining trade, and something worse than a second Ireland established in South Africa.
Would to God the people in Australia, would awake to the evils of imperialism and militarism, and that the press would assist to crush the thing out of the public mind, is the wish of
Yours, &c.,
Rockhampton, 14th January, 1901.

 The Capricornian 19 January 1901,

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