15 MAY 1880, Page 16

FOREIGN WORK AND ENGLISH WAGES.* "READERS of the following papers,"

says Mr. Brassey, in his- preface, "will not fail to discover for themselves my heavy obligations to the Press." An epithet more apt than "heavy could scarcely have been chosen, but some explanation is needed of the word "Press." The compiler, it is true, has used his scissors without restraint upon a large number of current periodicals, but he has also quoted rather unmercifully from an equally large number of well-known and little-known authors ;

• Foreign Work and English Wages. Considered WM Reference to the Aprestion of Trade. By Thomas Brassey, M.P. London : Lonsmans, Groan, and Co. 1875.

and we doubt if the word " Press " can be rightly applied to extracts from writers like Defoe, Carlyle, Coleridge, Mrs. Ga.skell, and (an especial favourite with Mr. Brassey) Mr. J. R.

Green. Nor does the aptness of these latter quotations, as a rule, entirely make up for their frequency.

It is our duty also to warn Mr. Brassey that in his future attempts to "elucidate industrial problems" and "improve the relations between capital and labour," he must pay more at- tention to the form in which he puts his lucubrations. At pre- sent, and judging from the work before us, his literary capacity does not exceed, if indeed it reveals, the literary capacity of the critic who solemnly opines, on the score of a few

loose verses, that it would have been better for the world if Burns had never written a line. We must admit, however, that remarks like these would be pedantic and impertinent to the last degree, if the net result of Mr. Brassey's book were such as might be not unfairly looked for from a man of his experience.

That a great many people are likely to hold that it is, may be gathered from the laudatory notices of this book which have already appeared. If we are presumptuous in taking a different view, we shall at all events endeavour to justify our opinion by quotations from the work itself, rather than by any arguments or assertions of our own.

Mr. Brassey retains, he says, "an implicit faith in the British workman ; if he will but do himself justice, he is as capable as he ever was of holding his own against the world." But the British workman has fallen on evil days just now, and the other members of the body politic are suffering with him. Mr. Brassey declares that he has no panacea to offer for this state of affairs ; and he describes his volume as a "record and registry, rather than a work of fancy, imagination, and

theory." As a matter of fact, however, he does offer us in a very diluted form the same remedies which Carlyle prescribed, more than thirty years ago, with surpassing vigour, in Past and Present. It is easy, indeed, to say and to see that, if an artisan practises sobriety and thrift, he will fare all the better for his self-denial. A farmer, too, who, in the words of Mephistopheles, is not ashamed

"Den Acker den er erntet selbst zu dfingen,"

whose sons are ready to imitate their sire, and whose daughters leave the drawing-room for the dairy, the pianoforte for the poultry-yard, will clearly be in a better position than he is now for competing with the foreigner. But we looked for something more specific than such bed-ridden truths as these from Mr. Brassey, and we refuse to be comforted with such vague though wholesome generalities.

We must hasten, however, to our quotations, and premising that Mr. Brassey's chapters are full of statistical information as trustworthy as it is valuable, we shall leave it to the reader to appraise the value of the conclusions which he has drawn from his facts and figures. His chapter on the cotton trade ends thus :—

" It has been said that we are losing our reputation as manu- facturers by adulterating our cotton-goods with a dressing of china clay. The practice has been resorted to by our rivals abroad ; but we may wisely give heed to the warning of Sir Brooke Robertson and other Consuls, and abandon the attempt to make trashy goods at impossible prices. We cannot claim a monopoly, but we ought to retain our share of the textile industry of the world. We have not escaped the almost universal depression of trade, but we must not despair of a return of prosperity."

The chapter on the iron trade ends thus :—

"We have unrivalled resources in respect of capital, undeniable superiority in machine-making, an expensive but highly-skilled body of workmen, endowed with matchless powers for sustained effort. In our coal and iron trades great and sudden profits have invariably led to over-production. This is an inevitable consequence in a country so remarkable for enterprise as our own. A trade carried on under such conditions is of necessity subject to wide fluctuations, and com- mands an average rate of profit considerably lower than one of a more stable character. Labour is not responsible for the frequent perturbations in the trade, although the workmen are compelled to bear their share of the losses sustained by their employers, and to submit to a proportionate reduction of wages."

And the chapter on colonisation ends as follows .

"From a political point of view, my visits to our distant possessions in Hong Kong, the Straits Settlements, Ceylon, and Aden, were perhaps the most satisfactory feature of my recent voyage round the world. The evidences of prosperity and good government in those scattered dominions of the Crown redound greatly to the honour of our country ; and when I combine with these more recent experiences recollections of a former journey to Canada and the United States, I see the most reassuring indications of great and beneficent destinies for the Anglo-Saxon race. We cannot hope, nor even desire, for our densely crowded little island the monopoly of the trade of the world. We cannot wish to concentrate in our own metropolis the responsibility of governing the vast and growing communities of the Antipodes and the New World. We can, however, retain, and retain for ever, our proud position as the mother- country of the great Anglo-Saxon brotherhood. If we help our children in a large and unselfish spirit now, in the days of their youth, they will not forget old England, if she becomes less vigorous in the lapse of ages. I invite all those who are unnerved by their dread of Pan- atavism, or their fear of Teutonic ascendancy on the Continent, to realise the grand but not impracticable vision of the power which might be created by a federation of all the Anglo-Saxon peoples. We are one in history, religion, and race ; and the sea, the groat highway of nations, and the cradle of our hardy northern ancestors, unites us. If all unworthy jealousies be repressed, and all our natural ties be cultivated in the spirit of sympathy and kindness, we shall never want an ally in the day of need."

We have not space for any more specimens of the batter, so to speak, in which Mr. Brassey has served up his plums- The gentle reader who likes it may, perhaps, agree in think- ing that his volume is one which everybody should read. A savage reader, on the other hand, may take it, or mistake it, for a mixture of thread-bare truism and Anglo-Saxon bun- combe. We certainly feel that we have heard it all before, and that not once, but many times.

But it must in justice be added, that Mr. Brame), does not always tread the beaten track. On rare occasions he deviates into originality, and we may refer the carpers who doubt

this statement to the curious arguments and quotations with which Mr. Brassey supports his strange proposition that men "who have seen their resources dwindling away in a suc- cession of adverse years, may, perhaps, find some comfort in the conviction that many disappointments await the founders of great fortunes." The millions who live—or linger, rather, from hand-to-mouth,—the hardly-treated souls who pay "30, 40, or 50 percent. dearer than their employers for the necessaries of life,"—the ignorant souls who waste on badly-cooked and unwholesome food in one day a sum which, if wisely used, would keep them well for three,—the unprotected souls who are allowed to ruin health and substance with poisons in the sale of which both Government and Legislature are interested, —the millions, in short, with whom poverty

"Is crime, and fear, and infamy, And bouseless want in frozen ways Wandering ungarmented, and pain,"— all these, we are sure, would despise the sorrows of Dives, and say with one accord, and with the sympathetic Irishman in Punch, that " Begorra, they'd like to have half his complaint!"

We have, it is obvious, found much to vex us in Mr. Brassey's book. We have also missed much. But it would be a mistake to infer from our vexation that the book is valueless. It is any thing but that. When Mr. Brassey prognosticates a revival of our commercial prosperity, he speaks with authority, and not as

the scribes. He agrees, indeed, with Mr. Gladstone in believing- " the commercial supremacy of the world must ultimately pass from the United Kingdom to the United States ;" but this in

only a prophecy, at the best, and it is, moreover, a prophecy which has no tendency to fulfil itself. If Huxley's prediction prove true, and the American people number 200,000,000, when the second centenary of the Republic is celebrated, we may anticipate changes of a startling kind in the territorial arrangements of North America. But we cannot, with any

face, attempt predictions of our own now ; and, after all, "Suffi-

cient unto the day is the evil thereof." There are other con- solatory facts which stand out in Mr. Brassey's book against a dark background of apprehension and depression; notably two,— the comparatively small increase in pauperism during the pre- sent crisis, and the steady increase in the deposits in the savings.

banks We have one more remark to make, and it is a remark which applies, more or less, to a great many gentlemen besides Mr.. Brassey. We have been annoyed rather frequently by the peculiar M.P.-ishness of Mr. Brassey's style, and in revenge we shall maliciously quote a passage, which will amuse if it does not instruct the reader :—

"The stimulating influence of emulation is felt in Parliament, in com- merce, by individuals, and in the wider sphere of competition between nations. The magical effect of the piece-work system may be traced in the most varied spheres of human labour When our fleets are detained for a lengthened period in remote foreign harbours, the energy and spirit of officers and men would gradually be impaired by the monotony of the service, but for the emulation between the differ- ent ships in the squadron (` Achilles ' v. 'Alexandra,' to wit), which a skilful commander knows both how to excite and how to control. We see the effects of emulation every day, in accelerating the speed of rival hansoms conveying Honourable Members to St. Stephen's, and in

the tournaments at which the latter afterwards assist on the floor of the Houses of Parliament."

It is characteristic of Mr. Brassey to be or appear ignorant of the serious objections which have been brought against emula- tion in general, and piece-work in particular ; and we should like to know what Sir E. Henderson or the Speaker thinks of the " hansoms " which race and the " tournaments " which are "assisted at," in the sentence which we have ventured to italicise.