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If these proportions can be maintained in beet-growing, our farmers will find themselves in possession of much needed and profitable crops; and the effect of the bounty will be counteracted not only by the freight but by this extra output as well.
It must be remembered, too, that where beet is grown for sugar, there arise works for the extraction of the sugar from the beet. And these works thus become centres of industrial labour of incalculable benefit to agricultural districts. Their value would be great in England, but of enormous advantage in Ireland.
Our meteorologists tell us there is not much difference in climate between our eastern counties and Holland, and Belgium, and France, where beetroot is so largely grown; and what difference there is, is a difference in our favour. Our best agricultural authorities, led by Mr. Caird and Mr. Duncan, bring forward a mass of testimony to prove that so far as climate and soil are concerned, beet of most excellent quality for sugar-making can be grown in many parts of England, and especially on the east coast of Ireland. It is pointed out that sun is indispensable to the ripening and sweetening only of growths that appear above the soil-for cane, fruit, leaves; but that for roots, if there be sufficient warmth in the climate, moisture is of far more value than sun.
Such is the evidence of practical science. Our schoolroom histories tell us of endless staple products that owe their introduction into a country almost to accident. Our economists tell us many an industry has outrun all competition by trial under a new set of conditions. Our archives tell us that the English farmer is professionally conservative. Our prosperity tells us that free competition, engendered of free trade, is dangerous to an industry that does not make the most of its opportunities. Our recent depression has awakened our agriculturists to a survey of their opportunities. Our highest authorities have declared that beet growing should be eminently feasible in England and in Ireland. Will the farmer come to the relief of the English loaf-sugar refiner, and free him of all these vexatious subtilties as to freight, and duties, and bounties, and what not?
It is not unreasonable to trust the British farmer to make the most of his opportunities. He will not omit to take to heart the mass of evidence that exists, as well to the feasibility of growing superior sugar-beet in the British Isles as to the eventual break-up of the bounty system on the continent. The refiner sees this also, and in the meantime makes the most of the present tendency of this bounty-system to increase the cheap supply of the raw material in England, and to diminish the competing supply of the manufactured article, to which, in its first inception, it gave so great an impetus.
If then we regulate our fancies by the facts of the case, we find
matters to be greatly simplified. The answer to those who found their grievance on the plea that our refiners cannot compete against bounties is that our refiners have competed, and competed with signal success.
The answer to those who would argue from this that no further action is necessary is that, on the contrary, this success may be made much greater if by all profitable means we combat a system pernicious, not so much to ourselves, as to those who adopt it. And among these means none is more efficacious than an intelligent and effective utilisation of the opportunities nature offers us in our own islands. As a nation we shall win greater economic success if, instead of resting content with the trifling benefit the bounty system now confers on the English consumer, we strive that this system be encouraged to compass its own death, and be no longer left to cumber and embarrass communities that in a healthier existence would be incited to larger and more profitable commercial intercourse with England.
Since the above remarks were set up in type, Mr. Ritchie's Committee has issued its Report. It is an extraordinary Report; and it is not surprising to find that it by no means expresses the unanimous opinion of the Committee. Before any action be taken in the matter, attention will be given to the following points :
1. The Report declares that loaf-sugar refining in England has been destroyed; and that if in the future bounties be established abroad on moist-sugar refining, that industry in England will also die out. But the Report omits to show that loaf-sugar refining in England was destroyed by bounties. The effect of bounties on refined sugar on English industries must be insignificant. The cost of transit alone equals a high bounty; cost of coal is in favour of the English refiner to the amount of sixpence a cwt. of sugar; bounties are given only on the relatively small amount of sugar that is exported; bounties often make no distinction as to whether the refined sugar is made from cane or beet. And when they are given on raw sugar they supply English refiners with raw material at a lower price than that which many of their foreign rivals are compelled to pay.
2. The Report maintains that cane cultivation may soon be abandoned in our Colonies. This is curious in the face of the acknowledged steady growth of this industry. Moreover, in so far as bounties have fostered refining in any given country, in so far have they created a new market for cane sugars. Nor is the bounty on exported raw-beet sugar all that it seems, for at least one-third of the raw beet-sugar we import is not 'bounty-fed.'
3. The Report acknowledges that
bounties, if not stopped by
other means, must ultimately break down of their own weight.' The Report fears that when this breakdown occurs, 'natural sources of supply' will have been destroyed. But when the artificial system breaks down, natural sources will again resuscitate, inasmuch as they are natural. And this destruction is hardly possible in the face of the steady, healthy growth of these 'natural sources' at present proceeding in the face of these failing bounties.
4. Perhaps the most astounding sentence in the Report is that, 'A countervailing duty is not in any sense of the term protection.' This statement will somewhat startle those who thought they understood something at all events of Political Economy. Among other senses the term Protection is usually taken to mean that the duty it imposes is one that is levied on imports of a commodity in order to foster the production of that commodity at home. That it is one levied for industrial and not for revenue purposes. That it is one that discriminates as to country of origin. That it is one to countervail superior advantages of production (whether natural or political). A countervailing duty is, at the least in every one of these senses of the term, Protection. It is lucky that the favoured nation clause in our Treaties prevents even the discussion of such a retrograde remedy.
5. The Report concludes with a recommendation for a fresh conference of the Powers interested, on the basis of superseding bounties by refining in bond.' This remedy of course does away with bounties.
But the Report itself explains that there is little need for any such action. The Report urges that not only the legislators, but also the sugar refiners themselves of the principal bounty-giving countries, are eager to put an end to the bounty system. If these ' vested interests' are thus opposed to bounties, the system is not only surely but speedily doomed. And there are plenty of signs of the coming end. There is general discontent among all those concerned. In France the bounties have been recently cut down by one half. In Austria the system has received a blow that will probably be fatal. The centre of the Bounty Cyclone has passed over us; we are hove to on the right tack-our colonial growers and our home refiners have advanced, slowly it may be, but they have not lost ground. The storm is astern of us, wasting its energies on itself. We are heading for an horizon on which there are sure indications of fairer conditions. We have no need to run back into the confused sea and the useless eddying storms of a faulty system that is, in fact, rapidly exhausting itself by the means of its own misdirected energy.
G. B. P.
HOMAS HARMAN'S Caveat for Common Cursetors vulgarely called Vagabones,' 1567, dedicated, as Warton thought with singular impropriety, to the Countess of Shrewsbury, is the earliest book of characters published in our language. The red-lattice phrases' and 'bold-beating oaths,' for which Falstaff reproved Pistol, are found in abundance among the coney-catching rascals and thieves, there described with the coarse slang cleaving to the pages, under such vagabondish titles as a 'prygger of prauncers,' a 'demaunder for glymmer.' This was soon followed by a tract containing similar characters, called 'The Fraternitye of Vacabondes.' In 1614 Sir Thomas Overbury's Wife' was published, along with many witty characters,' advertised as having been written by himselfe and other learned Gentlemen, his friends.' Wood, the Oxford biographer, supposed that to be the fourth or fifth edition, but it is the earliest that can be found in our libraries, and it contained twenty-one character sketches, while an edition appeared in 1622 having no less than eighty, and in 1631 a Mr. J. Cocke was enforced to claime' the authorship of three. Overbury's characters so caught the humours. of the time, that essays after the same quaint style were showered from the press, many being avowedly in his 'same manner;' and at least fifty volumes of characters on all possible subjects were written by dukes, baronets, rectors, and gentlemen and scribblers between 1615 and 1700.
Of all these productions not one approaches our author's except it is Bishop Earle's Microcosmography,' 1628, which Hallam preferred, and thought worthy of comparison with La Bruyère. Overbury was widely popular in his day. His spirit kindled kindred spirits. His originality of tone and treatment; his graphic delineation; the Dutchlike pictures, the neat sentences pointed to an apophthegm, or rounded with a witticism, found the truest test that admiration can take, that of imitation. But in after years the tide of popularity quite turned. Even those authors who delight in the quaint beauty and the picturesque prose of our old writers, seem to have no knowledge of him. Johnson preserves an ominous silence when we mention the author of the unmatcht Poeme, the Wife.' Of all the lovers of character and the sweet old prose, Charles Lamb, who was charmed with Kit Marlowe's luscious smoothness, beds of roses, buckles of gold' style, knows not our author by name; and among De Quincey's curious essays, and more curious footnotes, we have in vain searched for evidence that he knew of him. Even Macaulay does not make mention of his name or his writings. Others are acquainted with Overbury only to depreciate him; stately Hallam pats the knight with
a mild reference, and dismisses his characters with a Gerard Dow comparison. He appears to us to deserve a better fate, and his 'characters' live before us in a very real manner. Country and domestic life, courtier life, the duns, the whims and fashions of contemporary manners, are etched in his pages with poetic imagery, a rare if sometimes coarse skill, and a graphic veracity which make them. still worthy of notice, and may reward the reader who loves characteristic bits of old manners set in quaintly vivid phraseology.
The Harlequin without the mask is a grave man, and our author's life is one of the saddest in our unwritten English tragedies. In 1581 he was born in Warwickshire, and on reaching manhood he shone in the fatal light of a courtier. His popularity for a time at court occasioned poetic homage from Ben Jonson, who, by desire, read his 'Wife' to Sir Philip Sidney's daughter, he being in love with her,' and so well did Ben Jonson execute the delicate commission that he praised the author to her.' To students of history Overbury is well known as the subject of 'The Great Oyer of Poisoning: the Trial of the Earl of Somerset for the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury,' he being treacherously poisoned on September 15, 1613, and buried in the Tower of London, where many brave men lie. His death he owed to a too perfect knowledge of the character of the earl's wife, and his having spoken of her after a plain but truthful manner in order that he might affectionately and solemnly' induce his friend not to marry the unworthy woman. The accusation could not fail to rouse the deadly enmity of her whose life he correctly described; and like many outspoken men in these good old times' he met with an untimely death for having with a sincere and praiseworthy motive spoken the truth, unpalatable though it was, against an earl's daughter whom his earl friend loved and married. His epitaph in the light of events is that, however well, he spoke not wisely.
We accept two of his definitions of what a character is: To square out a character by our English levell, it is a picture (reall or personall) quaintly drawne, in various colours, all of them heightned by one shadowing.' It is a quicke and soft touch of many strings, all shutting up in one musicall close: it is wits descant on any plaine song.'
In no efforts does he seem to us to write so easily and well, with a heart music and with generous and touching sentiment, as in his characters of country life. An idyllic charm hangs over them; the air and all the surroundings are clear as summer; the fancy which Overbury lavished over a milkmaid or a country yeoman was as generous as it is bright with a true and manly goodness. His Faire and happy Milk-mayd' is the most exquisite portrait of its kind in our language, and one now wonders not that Queen Elizabeth, as Walton tells us, desired to be a milkmaid all May that she might sing all day long and sleep sound at night. Its airy fancy, the idiomatic English slipping together to the music which such a fair character evokes within us, the delightful ease and honest simplicity of