We have the favoured-nation relation with many European countries, and herein lies the possible danger: The war automatically annulled all treaties between belligerents. When the day of treaty making comes again shall we suffer for the sins of friend and foe in the rearrangement of international trade and lose some precious commercial privileges? It is worth thinking about.
Meantime, regardless of how the economic pact works out, England’s policy is “Deeds, not Words,” as she prepares for the time when normal life and business succeed the strain and frenzy of fighting days.
No man can range up and down the British Isles to-day without catching the thrill of a galvanic awakening, or feeling an imperial heartbeat that proclaims a people roused and alive to what the future holds and means. The kingdom is a mighty crucible out of which will emerge a new England determined to come back to her old industrial authority. It is with England that our commerce must reckon; it is English competition that will grapple with Yankee enterprise wherever the trade winds blow.
There are many reasons why. “For England,” as one man has put it, “victory must mean prosperity. However triumphant she may be in arms, her future lies in a preeminence in world industries. Through it she will rise as an empire or sink to a second-rate nation.”
In the second place, as all hope of indemnity fades, England realises that she will not only have to pay all her own bills but likewise some of the bills of her allies. Already her millions have been poured into the allied defence; many more must follow.
Hence, the relentless energy of her throbbing mills; the searching appraisal of her resources; the marshalling of all her genius of trade conquest. Dominating all this is the kindling idea of a self-contained empire, linked with the slogan: “Home Patronage of Home Product.” The war found her unprepared to fight; she is determined that peace shall see her fit for economic battle.
This is what she is doing and every act has a meaning all its own for us. Take Industry: Forty-eight hundred government-controlled factories, working day and night, are sending out a ceaseless flood of war supplies. The old bars of restricted output are down; the old sex discrimination has faded away. Women are doing men’s work, getting men’s pay, making themselves useful and necessary cogs in the productive machine. They will neither quit nor lose their cunning when peace comes.
I have watched the inspiring spectacle of some of these factories, have walked through their forest of American-made automatics, heard the hum of American tools as they pounded and drilled and ground the instruments of death. What does it signify? This: that quantity output of shot and shell for war means quantity output of motors and many other products for peace. You may say that quantity output is a matter of temperament and that the British nature cannot be adapted to it; but speeded-up munitions making has proved the contrary. The British workman has learned to his profit that it pays to step lively. High war wages have accustomed him to luxuries he never enjoyed before, and he will not give them up. Unrestricted output has come to stay.