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shop-fittings, decorations, &c.? The earl's carriage would take the place of the tradesman's cart (it has already done so to some extent, to the great detriment of the porters), the clerk would find his occupation gone, and even the shopman and shopwoman would be at a discount. These people are not too highly paid even now-what would they be then? and what effect would this state of things be likely to have upon the value of shop and even of house property? In the majority of cases the bulk of the profit made by traders is expended in rent and taxes, beyond which they get a bare subsistence; it is only a small minority who are able to save money. What proportion does the number of those who retire from business bear to those who fail? And when do they retire? Only, as a rule, when they are too old to work.
It is otherwise with the overpaid officers of the State. They invest, and therefore risk, nothing; and after a life of ease are entitled to a retiring pension at a comparatively early age. But, assuming the success of the co-operative movement, how long will this continue? Will the present high rates paid to civil and military officers be maintained? I think not; competition will centre upon those services, and competition has the reverse effect of keeping up prices. If co-operation is so good a thing, it will be tried all round. What is to prevent the Government service from being worked upon the co-operative plan?
Again, have the supporters of stores considered what effect the success of this system would be likely to ultimately have upon prices? All who are engaged in trade know that competition is so severe that, excepting in a few cases, nothing beyond very moderate profits can be obtained; and that, as a rule, it is only where there is a monopoly that large profits can be made. The tendency of co-operation, by setting up a few gigantic stores in place of the many shops, is to establish a monopoly, and having once attained that position, who shall say that it will not be taken advantage of, and monopoly prices charged? The large salaries which amateur directors and managers draw for their services lead to the conclusion that their action cannot be attributed to purely philanthropic motives; that selfishness, rather than self-sacrifice, is at the root of their so-called co-operation. Were it otherwise, the poorer members of the services would be encouraged to join, which I am informed is not the case, preference being given to wealthy outside customers who can afford to buy largely.
The Rochdale Pioneers adopted very different principles; they struck against an abominable truck system,' co-operated strictly amongst themselves, and, recognising the necessity of a fair remuneration to honest traders, charged a like profit upon their goods; and, after paying working expenses, divided the residue annually, pro rata, amongst the members according to the amount of their purchases. Had this system been continued, and the societies assessed for incometax upon their profits, tradesmen would have had no cause of complaint.
I have so far written in defence of traders; but I by no means do so generally. That the great majority are honest I, from my long business experience, have no doubt; but there are exceptions to the rule, notably those who profess to take off large discounts to the holders of co-operative tickets. Twenty or twenty-five per cent. is absurd-no honest trader can afford to do anything of the kind; and there is very little doubt that tradesmen who supply the holders of those tickets either raise their prices generally to enable them to take off such discounts, thereby robbing the public, or require them to be served at special counters. (In two cases within my knowledge this has been, and probably is still, done.) There are others who indulge in any amount of clap-trap; professing, perpetually, that they are selling goods at a ruinous sacrifice;' others again who make leading articles' of well-known goods, as the stores do of pickles, &c. All such places the judicious buyer will avoid. But it is as unfair, because a minority adopt such principles, become trade charlatans, to charge the general body of traders with dishonesty, as it would be to say that the nobility and gentry are not trustworthy because a minority, in virtue of their family names or connections, obtain goods on credit for which they have neither the means nor the intention to pay; or the working classes with dishonesty because a few are guilty of theft.
Yet the trader is called extortionate, dishonest, if he does not supply his customers at store prices, plus sending daily for orders, delivering goods free of cost, giving more or less credit, but minus the five-shilling ticket, renewable annually, for the privilege of dealing at his shop.
The tradesman asks for no exceptional advantages; what he requires, and what he will demand, is a fair field and no favour either for himself or others: let competition be made equal, and he will have no difficulty in holding his own. And to make competition equal, paid or pensioned officers of the State should be prohibited from trading; co-operative societies should be assessed for incometax in proportion to their annual returns, and should be required to pay stamp duties; and the trader should be legally entitled to charge five per cent. interest per annum on accounts after twelve months' credit. It is useless to talk of doing away with credit; without credit the business of the country could not be carried on.
Moreover, in the interest of the public quite as much as of the trader, it is desirable that the Limited Liability Act should be amended. No Act was ever passed which more completely falsified the intentions of its propounders, or had a more deteriorating effect upon commercial morality. Under its ægis penniless promoters have almost daily started bubble companies for every conceivable purpose; persons of standing in society have, for a consideration, allowed their names to appear in prospectuses, thereby becoming decoys; goods have been depreciated in quality until British manu
factures are discredited in foreign markets; a most unhealthy stimulus has been given to trade, from the reaction of which we are now suffering; and thousands of families have been ruined by the failure of companies which in many cases were either never intended to succeed, or had not the remotest chance of succeeding.
To place limited companies in fair competition with traders, and at the same time render them comparatively safe investments, I think that shares should be issued at a minimum of 50l., and the full amount called up within two years. This would be no hardship upon the public; persons who have not 50l. to invest had far better put their small savings into the Post Office Bank. Directors should be required to hold, collectively, at least one-tenth of the capital; their names should be published on prospectuses and in their places of business, and, in the event of failure, in the Gazette, with that of the company to which they belonged; public auditors should be appointed and accounts audited annually, and companies should be summarily wound up whenever it was found that half the capital had been lost; moreover, a heavy penalty should be attached to making wilful misstatements either in prospectuses or accounts. By these means an altogether superior class of directors would be obtained, the public would be protected in their investments, and manufacturers and traders would no longer be subjected to an unfair competition. I say unfair, because those who are speculating with other people's money, risking none of their own, do so regardless of consequences, and thus go on producing irrespective of demand, and, being compelled to sell, frequently do so at a loss. What does it matter to them? They draw their fees as long as any fund remains to draw from, and when all is lost transfer their valuable services to some fresh undertaking.
Mr. Lawson seems to smile at the idea of tradesmen making a hustings question of co-operation, and threatens as a counter-move a combination of consumers, who, being the larger body, would be sure to have the best of the battle. But this is assuming a great deal. If all consumers were like-minded, doubtless it would be so; but happily the majority are too unselfish, and I may add too clearsighted, to be led away by this newfangled idea: they can see that it is socialistic in principle, that it has a distinctly leveiling tendency, and they are doubtful as to where it may ultimately lead.
Tradesmen have too long allowed petty jealousies to keep them asunder. They will now unite, form a Trade League,' and, avoiding all distinctions of party, vote only for such candidates as will pledge themselves to fairly represent their interests in Parliament. This was done in Marylebone at the last election, and resulted in the return of a Liberal and a Conservative: it will be done again at the next; and what was effected in Marylebone can be done in every borough throughout England.
THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN
THIS paper concerns itself solely with the native State of Burmah, and takes no cognisance of that rich, fertile, and interesting group of provinces which we know under the collective name of British Burmah.' When, therefore, I speak in the following pages, hastily written during a very shaky voyage from Mandalay to Prome, of 'Burmah,' it is to be understood that the independent kingdom of Burmah is invariably meant.
The once great empire of the 'Lord of the Universe' has dwindled sadly both in dimensions and splendour. In its palmy days it embraced the whole of the fair wide-spreading region between the great mountain-range that stretches southward from the snow-clad Langtang to the sea near Martaban between the embouchures of the Salwen and the Sitang, and that other range which, under the generic name of the Arracan Mountains, trends southward from the Assam mass, till it sinks in the sea hard by Negrais, 'its last bluff crowned by the golden pagoda of Modain, gleaming far to seaward, a Burmese Sunium.' Of this favoured region, Yule, whose book, published in 1858, is still the standard treatise on Burmah, thus speaks: 'With such a frontier, with neighbours who only wished to be let alone, with such a trunk line from end to end of his dominions as the Irawadi, with his teak forests, and his mineral riches, and his fisheries, his wheat, cotton, and rice lands, a world of eager traders to the eastward, and the sea open in front, the King of Ava's dominion was a choice one, had not incurable folly and arrogance deprived him of his best advantages, cast down the barriers of his kingdom, and brought British cantonments and custom-houses within his borders.'
Shorn of its seaboard, mismanaged and misgoverned, it is still a choice dominion. Along a valley from twenty to sixty miles wide, every acre of which teems with fertility, the Irawadi pours down its mighty volume of water, at once a highway and a fertiliser. Its course is a great street, the wayfarers on which are innumerable craft, its borders lined by smiling villages bowered among luxuriant foliage. It is easy come, easy go,' as to money and substance, with the gay-hearted, happy-go-lucky people of Burmah. They can laugh
at want in a country where a plot of ground needs but to be tickled with a hoe and it laughs up into your face with sustenance for a season; they dance and sing, and can afford hours and days for holiday-making and 'pooey frequenting, under misgovernment that would go far to break the spirit of a less buoyant race, and under a burden of taxation that would grind into the dust the peasantry of a less favoured soil. In Burmah every industry-from governing to cabbage-growing—is pursued fitfully, perfunctorily, and as if tempus inexorabile were a bauble to be played with; and yet prosperity is universal, plenty smiles from every village, and merry contentment beams from every face. With trade a mere plaything—to all appearance regarded as a casual joke by those who engage in it-the great fleet of the Irawadi flotilla finds cargo waiting at every ghaut; and the customs revenue on exports and imports—a revenue farmed, of course, to a foreigner, to save bother, and so sweated freelyyields annually more than a million and a half sterling, and this exclusive of monopolies that are duty-free. The wife of the half-naked coolie who carries your portmanteau ashore wears a dolizan of the 'red, red goud' prized as much in the Burmah of to-day as in the Scotland of the olden time. A real ruby flashes its crimson radiance on the finger of a chance deck-passenger on your steamer, who may be the wife of an artisan or a petty official. And you are told by credible witnesses that the valley of the Irawadi, fertile and peopled as it seems, can bear no comparison in fertility and population with the great inland valley parallel with it to the eastward, stretching along the base of the Shan mountains all the way from Mandalay, the capital, to the British frontier station of Tonghoo-its length two hundred and thirty miles, its breadth varying from forty to eighty. In the eastern slopes trending down to this valley, coal and ironstone-both, it is needless to say, unwrought-lie in juxtaposition as close as in the Cleveland hills, and lead is actually worked after a fashion. As you traverse the streets of Burmah, no beggars harass your path with piteous whines and loathsome credentials such as swarm in every city of British India, and are indeed not wholly unknown in our own favoured isle. To the superficial observer, the land is an Oriental Arcadia somewhat flavoured with naughtiness, and slightly chequered by crucifixions. To look up, from the perusal of a newspaper story of Sheffield distress, at the river foreground of a Burmese village, with the plump children larking in the sand, and the laughing women tripping down to bathe, is a contrast that has a momentary tendency to shake one's faith in the blessedness of civilisation.
The late King of Burmah died in October last, and, soon after the telegram announcing the accession to the throne of one of his sons, there appeared in the English newspapers the wondrous tale that in a land, concerning which the most salient piece of knowledge