I first encountered this image in the book “The Confederation Generation” by Mary Falls Jones. It’s caption “New Year’s visiting in Canada, 1875” drew me in. Its not unusual to find a picture of a woman in a dress ca 1875, but for the lady to be greeting someone in a Capote (a very Canadian garment if ever there was) and for it to be labelled “in Canada” is. Most published images from then were borrowed, or copied, from British or European publications. I wanted to see what else I could find out about this Canadian gem. That led me to the images original source, Canadian Illustrated News, to see what information the image might be accompanied by. Turns out it had no direct reference to anything there, it came after the monthly update to the serial “Who Stole the Diamonds” and was followed up on the overleaf by a poem and “Courriers des Dames / The Ladies Mail” a collection of correspondence from abroad about ladies fashion. Oh well, no details but still a great find!
Following the ladies news, however, was a fascinating letter to the Editor about Free Trade, and although it was not about Canadian fashion per se, it was an unknowing forecast of what would occur, many decades later, that would be amongst the problems that would help to befall the Canadian fashion industry in the late 20th Century. A great coincidence of a find, as this type of article is something that I am always on the hunt for, and I was certainly not expecting find such a thing there! Two for the price of one! It is copied below, in it’s entirety, and is fascinating read.
“PROTECTION IS THE FOLLY OF ASKING A MAN TO MAKE ALL HIS OWN COTHES.”
To the Editor of the CANADIAN ILLUSTRATED NEWS
Dear Sir, – The above quotation is one of the many sophisms employed by Free Traders. It is the style of argument used by all that class from Mr. Bright to his humblest followers. Prof. Price, who is claimed as an advocate Free Trade, is reported to have said in one of his lectures, “Protection is the folly of asking a man to make all his own clothes.” This is a misrepresentation. Neither Horace Greeley, Morrill , nor any living protectionist writer ever asked a man or even a nation, to do any such thing. Again the professor says, “it is folly to foster “home industry” by requiring the people of the country to produce everything they want.” This statement is worse, if anything, than the other. It means that protectionists recommend producing their own silk, tea, sugar, spices, and so forth, in whatever climate they live. I would like to know where the Professor met with men advocating these opinions. Further on he says “Nations, like individuals, have special facilities, faculties, and aptitudes, with respect to production.” This is what we perceive, and we ask nations to produce those things for which they have “special facilities and aptitudes,” instead of importing them from other countries.
Again, “nobody ventures to maintain that the people of Maine should not trade freely with the people of Texas, the people of New York with the people of California.” He gives this as his reason why the should be Free Trade between Canada and the States. The Professor appears to forget one thing, and forgetting this, he falls into a very great error. The relations of Maine, California, Teas and New York to each other are different from the relations of Canada to any of them. Canada is under a different government, and has different interest, both commercially and politically. For Maine to be dependent on California, or California on Maine, does not effect the safety of either, for each pledged to the defence of the other; but for Canada to be dependent on either is perilous, neither being pledged to her defence, but occupying the attitude of interested enemies. One quotation more from the Professor “The folly of compelling everybody to make all his own clothes will soon be relegated to the shades that envelope the old Navigation Act of Great Britain.” There is more sound than sense in this quotation. The Professor is a very ignorant man if he does not know that his recommendations has been adopted , by Protecionists as well as Free Traders, long before the repeal of the Navigation Act.
Nothing leads to more frequent errors in reasoning than comparing things which are not comparable. The Professor asserts something of a man which is strictly true, so long as affirmed of a man, but utterly erroneous when applied to a nation. The acceptance of Free Trade principles, by the public, depends entirely on the capacity of the leaders to mix, confuse and mystify the matter. They require to be kept to the point, like the Professor. When they make unquestioned assertions, don’t allow them to transfer or apply the conclusions to something dissimilar.
The moment Free Traders state the exact idea intended, their arguments lose force. Had the Professor said, “It is folly to ask a nation to produce everything it requires, for which it has natural facilities,” he would have stated the negative of protection fairly and clearly. But the other form of expression till questioned, answers his purpose better. J.S. Mill admits all that protectionists affirm when he says that “any country having natural facilities for any particular manufacture, is justified in adopting protection for a time to give the start which otherwise individual enterprise alone would not be able to make.”
“The start” above referred to, is all that Canadian manufacturers ask. But Free Traders are too cosmopolitan in their ideas to give ttheir own countrymen even this small preference over foreigners. They contend that if a county has natural facilities, its manufacturers need no start. Mill thinks other wise; he recomends protecting for a time, even where the facilities exist.