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What About The Chinese, Kind Sir?
by [?]

A prosperous and old New York merchant assures a conference of workingmen that England’s great strikes have caused that country to lose its leadership in exports of machinery.

If England’s wonderful system of trades unionism has hurt its exports of machinery, if abundance of very cheap slave labor means great industrial superiority, we beg to ask this question:


There are scores of millions of men in China glad to work for a few pennies per day.

There are no labor unions in China, and in some districts the employer can have his workmen beheaded for demanding an increase of pay. If the venerable old New York merchant is right, China ought to be certainly a marvellously successful country industrially.

As a matter of fact, China is dead, and there is no better proof of her complete deadness than the fact that among all her millions of coolies there is not enough spirit for the formation of a labor union.

The energy of the British workman established England’s industrial greatness and fought for and won the great trades-union system which the workmen of this country are developing so ably. —-

Suppose it were true that trades unionism, with its higher wages and shorter hours, decreases exports–what of it?

Is it not more important to have ten million workmen well paid, with reasonable leisure and decent lives, than to have a handful of iron masters and coal-mine owners piling up millions of pounds and producing sons like the famous “Jubilee Juggins”?

Wouldn’t it be better for China if her several hundred millions of citizens were well paid, well fed and well educated, even though Li Hung Chang and the other prosperous viceroys should all be paid a little less money, and own fewer square miles of rice fields and tea plants? —-

In Huxley’s admirable biography, written by his son, you may read of a ‘longshoreman who, thanks to reasonably short hours of work and a little leisure, took up the study of scientific subjects.

He was aided by Huxley, who lent him a microscope, and ultimately this common ‘longshoreman’s researches were of real value to the scientific world.

Isn’t it well to have a trades-union system which curbs the avariciousness of employers and gives workmen a chance to develop the best that is in them?

Isn’t it better for England to have that ‘longshoreman develop into a scientist than to let some man who employs him make an extra shilling a day out of his labor, even though it should add a little to the exports of England? —-

A country’s greatness depends on the quality of the men that live in the country, not on goods manufactured to sell to outside nations.

Rome was doing little exporting when she ruled the world.

She was breeding men, independent and brave, who could bring the products of the world to her.

She did not need to worry about exports, nor does any other country need to worry about them.

The thing to worry about is the condition of your citizens, the education of children, the decent treatment of women, the equality of laws.

Other things take care of themselves.