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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/304

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

imports to less than 15 per cent. In fact, had not civil war intervened in 1861, the United States, in a very few years more, would have undoubtedly rivaled Great Britain in freeing its foreign trade and commerce from all restrictions, save for revenue and sanitary purposes.[1] In 1860, England, under the lead of Mr. Cobden, negotiated the celebrated commercial treaty with France, which, while providing for large reciprocal reductions or entire removal of many duties on exports as well as imports, also entirely abolished all absolute "prohibitions" on any branch of international commerce between the two nations; as, for example, in respect to coal, the exportation of which to France, England, under a fancied military necessity, had at one period prohibited.

Following the Anglo-French treaty, and as the result, doubtless, of its influence, twenty-seven other similar treaties were negotiated; in some one or more of which all the states of Europe, with the exception of Greece, participated; Russia even breaking through her customary reserve, and entering into more liberal commercial agreements with more than one of her neighbors. And, as many of these different treaties successively embodied new and special relaxations in respect to duties on imports—which, in virtue of the so-called "favored nation clause"[2] existing in most previous treaties with other countries, became also and at once generally applicable—the area of commercial freedom and its accruing benefits extended very rapidly, and, as it were, without effort, over the greater part of Europe. So that, by the year 1870, "all the great trading nations of Europe—England, France, the states of the German Zollverein, Austria, Italy, Holland, and Belgium—had become one great international body, by all the members of which the principle of stipulating for exclusive advantages for their own commerce seemed to have been abandoned, and not one of whom could take off a duty without every other member at once enjoying increased commercial facilities; while within this body, the operation of the favored-nation clause was such as to make the arrival at almost unlimited freedom of exchange merely a question of time."[3]

Furthermore, not only were these same governments busy during

  1. In 1860 a reduction of the national revenues, induced primarily by the commercial panic of 1857 and an increase of national expenditures, with threatened political troubles, led to the introduction of a bill, avowedly with the intent of restoring the tariff rates in force prior to 1857; and this bill, with amendments, increasing the rates considerably beyond that point became a law in March, 1861. But, at that date, seven of the Southern States had seceded, and had withdrawn in great part their Senators and Representatives from the Federal Congress; so that the action of Congress, at the time of the passage of this bill, affords no indication of what the legislation of the United States on the subject of the tariff would have then been had domestic tranquillity not been interrupted.
  2. By the "favored-nation clause" is understood that provision which has been incorporated in most treaties in modern times, by which the contracting parties agree to give to each other as good treatment as each one, then or thereafter acting severally, may give to other and the most favored nations.
  3. Address of the President (Grant Duff, M.P.) of the Department of Economy and