From The United Irishman, November 11, 1905. The following is a review of a pamphlet by the British Tariff Reform League, entitled ‘The Salvation of Erin’.
The British Tariff Reform League is at present distributing a short pamphlet throughout Ireland entitled ‘The Salvation of Erin.’ It opens by inquiring how it has come to pass that in fifty years the population of Ireland has diminished by almost one-half. The answer is simple: Because Ireland has been ruled by foreigners in the interests of foreigners; but it is not the answer our British reformers give. Their answer is: ‘Free Trade.’ Now, Free Trade was merely an instrument used by England to effect her purpose. If Ireland had been governed during the last fifty years by the Irish, even though her governors had been imbecile enough to adopt the economic system made in Manchester, her population would not have decreased by one-half. Her people would have suffered, but they would not have been exterminated. Nor is it a 50 per cent. massacre we have to allege against the Government of Ireland during the last half-century. The Irish population in 1845 was 8 ½ millions. At the usual ratio of increase of population it should be 15,000,000 in 1905—thus approaching that number which De Beaumont considers necessary to properly cultivate Ireland—20,000,000. But instead of 15,000,000 we have a population of four millions and a quarter—10,750,000 men and women who should be living and thriving on the soil of Ireland have vanished somewhere or other. What caused the evanishment? Providence, says the British hypocrite and the Irish slave. Free Trade, says Mr. Chamberlain.1 The British Government of Ireland, which has nothing to do with the one and includes the other, say we.
Much of what is stated in this pamphlet which is being circulated amongst the Irish agricultural population, is true—it is true that Free Trade has depopulated rural England—it is true that Free Trade worked more disaster to Ireland than it could have worked to any other country in Europe—it is true that, so far as Ireland is concerned, ‘Free Trade is a remorseless process-server.’ What is not true is that Mr. Chamberlain’s policy will ensure Ireland ‘a future of unexampled prosperity,’ because, apart from the political factors which will prevent an ‘Ireland of unexampled prosperity,’ because, apart from the political factors which will prevent an ‘Ireland of unexampled prosperity’ evolving under foreign government, Mr. Chamberlain does not propose to give Ireland any protection against her real rivals. He proposes to protect her against France, and Germany, and the United States and other countries, but to leave her open to Great Britain and Great Britain’s Colonies. He proposes, like the shrewd Englishman he is, to force all competitors with Great Britain and Greater Britain out of the Irish market, and hand it over defenceless to the British producer. In a word he proposes to continue ‘Free Trade’ where it is advantageous to Great Britain, and to abolish it where it isn’t; and if he had not in the beginning alarmed the Englishman’s stomach, his policy would have won hands down in England—for by it Ireland was to be further plundered, a popular thing with the English. But his pamphlet is well-calculated to dazzle the unreflecting Irish reader. It tells him how under the Chamberlain scheme he is going to secure more for his crops and pay less for his tea and sugar and tobacco. What it forgets to tell him is that under the English monopoly it would create all our remaining industries, save the agricultural one, must be swept out of existence, and that the ‘increased price’ of our agricultural produce would not at all approach the ‘increased price’ of the English produce we would be forced to exchange it for.
We are Protectionists. If we could we would seal the ports of Ireland for ten years against aught but the raw materials we need and which our country does not produce. But Mr. Chamberlain’s scheme is the reverse of Protection for Ireland. During the last fortnight we have had a deluge of Free Trade hogwash poured out on us from the lips of instruments of the British Government in Ireland on the occasion of auditors’ addresses. We have one British judge—Fitzgibbon—assuring his hearers that protective tariffs are obsolete, when practically every country in the world except the country which appoints jailors and judges in Ireland—imposes them, and another British judge—Shaw—assuring his hearers that Ireland under Free Trade flourished so exceedingly that in 1860 she produced much more from her soil than in 1847. We turn to the official figures and find that in 1860 Ireland grew 5,343,272 quarters of grain less than in 1847. Whence does the one British judge borrow his economic information and the other borrow his figures? Are we to assume that Lord Justice Fitzgibbon is ignorant of the fact that protective tariffs prevail, throughout Europe and in America, and that Judge Shaw—star of the Statistical Society—is ignorant of statistics? In a country where the study of economics and statistics is more neglected than in any other, it is possible for British judges, Barrington lecturers, and Manchester muddlers to pretend that if one man in his shirt is not a match for eleven armed men, it is immoral to invest him with a suit of armour, a buckler, and a sword—but only in such a corner. Against all British judges, economic quacks, political parties and hired leaderwriters, we assert that for our country Free Trade is disaster—as-good-and-as-cheap a humbug—Mr. Chamberlain’s fiscal policy a swindle—and Bishop Berkeley’s brazen wall built around this island an economic solution of the Irish question, which we furthermore assert, so far from being an enigma in search of an Edipus is as obvious as a Castle detective, being merely, whether the people of one nation can rule, in their own interest, the people of another nation without inflicting upon them moral and material injury.
1 Cartlann: Joseph Chamberlain, Liberal Unionist and supporter of the Tariff Reform League.