CHAPTER VII. THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The Reform Act of 1832, however, and the rapid increase of manufactures, transferred the balance of power in parliament from the landed to the manufacturing classes; factory hands were persuaded that the repeal of the duties would largely increase the value of their wages; and the failure of the potato-crop in Ireland in 1845-46 rendered an increase of imported food-stuffs imperative. Sir Robert Peel accordingly carried a measure in 1846 providing for the gradual abolition of the corn-duties, saving only a registration duty of one shilling, which was removed some twenty years later. This repeal of the Corn Laws did not appreciably affect the price of corn, the great reduction of which was subsequently effected by the vast expansion of corn-growing areas in the colonies and abroad. But it enormously increased the supply at once, and gradually gave England the full benefit of growing areas and declining prices. It is obvious that the retention of the duty, which had been fixed at 24_s. 8_d. in 1828 when the price was 62_s. or less a quarter, would have prevented prices falling as they subsequently did below the value of the duty; and it is no less certain that it would have impeded the development of corn-growing districts in the colonies and abroad, and of British imports from, and exports to, them.
The enormous increase in the import of corn helped, in fact, to double British exports within ten years. This was the result of the general freeing of trade, of which the repeal of the Corn Laws was only a part. In the third quarter of the eighteenth century there were hundreds of Acts, covering thousands of pages, on the statute-book, imposing an infinity of chaotic duties on every kind of import; they made the customs costly to collect and easy to evade; and the industry they stimulated most was smuggling. The younger Pitt, influenced by Adam Smith, whose Wealth of Nations appeared in 1776, reduced and simplified these duties; but 443 Acts still survived when in 1825 Huskisson and other enlightened statesmen secured their consolidation and reduction to eleven. This Tariff Reform, as its supporters called it, was a step towards Free Trade. Peel gradually adopted its principles, induced partly by the failure of his efforts to use existing duties for purposes of retaliation; and between 1841 and 1846 he abolished the duties on 605 articles and reduced them on 1035 more, imposing a direct income-tax to replace the indirect taxes thus repealed. The process was completed by Gladstone, and what is called Free Trade was established as the fundamental principle of English financial policy.
This does not mean that no duties are imposed on exports or imports; it simply means that such duties as are levied are imposed for the sake of revenue, and to protect neither the consumer from the export of commodities he desires to purchase, nor the manufacturer from the import of those he wishes to make. The great interests connected with land and manufactures had ceased to hang together, and fell separately. Protection of manufactured goods did not long survive the successful attack which manufacturers had levelled against the protected produce of the landlords and the farmers. The repeal of the Navigation Acts rounded off the system; British shipping, indeed, needed no protection, but the admission of colonial goods free of duty and the removal of the embargo on their trade with foreign countries may not have compensated the colonies for the loss of their preference in the British market. The whole trend of affairs, however, both conscious and unconscious, was to make the world one vast hive of industry, instead of an infinite number of self-sufficient, separate hives; the village market had expanded into the provincial market, the provincial into the national, the national into the imperial, and the imperial into the world market.
We have not by any means exhausted the results of the Industrial Revolution, and most of our social problems may be traced directly or indirectly to this source. Its most general effect was to emphasize and exaggerate the tendency towards specialization. Not only have most workers now but one kind of work; that work becomes a smaller and smaller part of increasingly complex industrial processes; and concentration thereon makes it more and more difficult for the worker to turn to other labour, if his employment fails. The specialist's lack of all-round capacity is natural and notorious. Hence most serious results follow the slightest dislocation of national economy. This specialization has also important psychological effects. A farmer, with his varied outdoor occupations, feels little craving for relief and relaxation. The factory hand, with his attention riveted for hours at a stretch on the wearisome iteration of machinery, requires recreation and distraction: naturally he is a prey to unwholesome stimulants, such as drink, betting, or the yellow press. The more educated and morally restrained, however, seek intellectual stimulus, and the modern popular demand for culture arises largely from the need of something to relieve the grey monotony of industrial labour.