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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/324

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In leather and leather goods, Germany leads, while France appears to be rapidly losing her former supremacy.

Apart, however, from their bearing on any particular country, a review of all the circumstances connected with the multiplication of restrictions on international commerce, which the majority of civilized nations have united in creating in recent years, fully justifies the British Commission and other European authorities in regarding it as a most influential agency in occasioning almost universal economic disturbance. It has been progress backward—progress in the direction of that sentiment of the middle ages, which held that, as commerce benefited one country only as it injured some other, it was the duty of every country to impose the most harassing restrictions on its commercial intercourse. Or, in other words, increased knowledge respecting the forces of Nature, and a wonderful subordination and use of the same having greatly increased and cheapened the abundance of all useful and desirable things, the majority of the world's legislators and statesmen have seemed to have considered it incumbent upon them to neutralize and defeat the beneficent results of such abundance. And the most comforting assurance that progress will not indefinitely continue to be made in this same direction, is to be found not so much in the intelligence of the masses or their rulers, as in the circumstance that existing restrictions on commerce can not be much further augmented without such an impairment of international trade as would be destructive of civilization.

As the restrictions on trade within the last eight or nine years have not been all imposed at one time, but progressively, and as their influence has accordingly been gradual, the world does not seem to have as yet fully appreciated the extent to which the exchange of products between nations has been thereby interrupted or destroyed. But as the case now stands, Russia practically prohibits her people from any foreign purchases of any iron or steel; Germany and Austria, of cereals; Belgium, of cattle and meats; Russia, Austria, Germany, France, Belgium, and Holland, of sugar; France, of pork; and Brazil, of rice. The imports of Russia, as before pointed out, decreased twenty-five per cent in the three years from 1883 to 1886; those of France from $160,981,000 in 1881 'to 6127,457,000 in 188.5; and those of Austria during the same period from §251,230,000 to $219,273,000. Between France and Italy trade has been interrupted to almost as great a degree as mutual governmental action will admit; while the value of the exports of the United States to France which amounted in round numbers to $100,000,000 in 1880, had become reduced in 1886 to $40,096,000. The one objective of the restrictive commercial legislation of all countries in recent years has been mainly the United States; and it has already affected the former agricultural supremacy of the country in the markets of the world; the exports of cattle from the United States, comparing 1886 with 1881, having