Notes of Lessons: History, Class IV

Notes of Lessons: History, Class IV

[We have thought that it might be of use to our readers (in their own families) to publish from month to month during the current year, Notes of Lessons prepared by students of the House of Education for the pupils of the Practising School. We should like to say, however, that such a Lesson is never given as a tour de force, but is always an illustration or an expansion of some part of the children’s regular studies (in the Parents’ Review School), some passage in one or other of their school books.—Ed.]

Subject: Fiscal Problem, 1846-1903 Group: History Class IV • Time: 45 minutes

By Helen E. Wix
The Parents’ Review, 1904, pp. 144-147


I. To arouse interest in the Fiscal Policy.

II. To connect the present time with the period in English history which the girls have been learning.

III. To show how different ages may have different requirements.


Step I.—Introduce the subject of the lesson by asking the girls what they know of the Fiscal question and its importance. It may be a turning-point in our history.

Step II.—Ask the girls when Free Trade was established in England—1846. Then draw from them through whose influence it was brought about—Cobden, Bright and Peel. Show portraits of these people and tell the girls a little about each. Then draw from them as much as I can about the Corn Laws, whom they benefitted and whom they harmed. They had existed since 1463 in various forms. There had often been objections raised against them, but from 1840-6 there seems to have been the climax. Draw from the girls how this may be accounted for by the condition of the country. Then show how circumstances made Peel change his opinions, and finally bring about the repeal of the Corn Laws.

Ask the girls to read extracts from two of Peel’s speeches. (Knight’s History.)

Step III.—Ask the girls what we mean by Free Trade, and whether they think the effects of “Free Importation” have been good for England. If they do, why was it good? We, as the greatest manufacturing nation of the world, naturally prospered if we could get our raw materials free of duty. Then if we have so prospered, why is there any thought of abandoning it now? Because we are no longer at the head of the manufacturing world. Cobden thought other countries would be content to continue supplying us with raw material and leave manufacturing to us; but they have not been, and now competition runs us close. It is said our exports are decreasing in proportion as those of other countries are increasing. There is another reason. In Cobden’s age it was only necessary to think of England’s good, but now we have also to consider our Colonies, and our Empire is so large it has been thought necessary to devise some means of binding it all together. The means advocated by Mr. Chamberlain is a Preferential Tariff. I wish to draw as much of this as I can from the girls.

Step IV.—Draw from the girls a very short sketch of Mr. Chamberlain’s career. He was born in Birmingham in 1836. At the age of 40 he entered Parliament. He was under Mr. Gladstone and worked energetically for his interests. But when the Home Rule Bill was brought forward he resigned, saying he did not think it consistent with the integrity of the Empire. This step procured him the ill-will of his party and the distrust of his adversaries. In 1892 Mr. Chamberlain was again in Parliament; three years later he became Colonial Secretary. In 1900 he did much to bring about the Australian Commonwealth Act. At the Colonial Conference last year, it was desired to devise some means of drawing the Colonies and the mother country near together. A Preferential Tariff was suggested. Mr. Chamberlain seems to have had the idea in his mind for some time; he announced his views in a speech at Birmingham some time ago. In September last he resigned, that he might better be able to spread his ideas among the people, and also that his policy should not be treated as a party question. He has explained his views in his speeches at Glasgow, Greenock, Newcastle and Liverpool.

Step V.—Draw from the girls what I can of Mr. Chamberlain’s proposals. He wants a Preferential Tariff, that is, he would put a duty on all foreign imports, but allow some Colonial imports in free, in return for preferences from them. The consequences of this would be—

(a) That corn and meat would be dear; tea, sugar, coffee, fruit, wine, etc., would be free of duty. Mr. Chamberlain says that the changes in price would counterbalance each other, even to the advantage of the poor man.

(b) The time for Free Trade has come to an end, for ours is only Free Importation, and we lose doubly by it—we lose home trade and foreign markets.

(c) Our export trade with the foreigner is decreasing, that with the Colonies is increasing, therefore let us set up a Preferential Tariff between us and the Colonies and shut out cheap foreign imports.

(d) This done, there would be enough work for the home market to employ many of the men who now can find nothing to do.

(e) In the time of war, instead of being dependent on foreigners for three-quarters of our supply of food, we should have all we want from our Colonies.

(f) The Empire would be a self-supporting whole.

Step VI.—There are many objectors to Mr. Chamberlain, such as Lord Rosebery, Lord George Hamilton, Lord Goschenand others. Their objections have been partially answered by Mr. Chamberlain in his speeches, but some can only be answered by hypothetical arguments.

(a) They say our exports are not decreasing, and quote figures to prove this, which differ from Mr. Chamberlain’s figures. It is hard to know which are right.

(b) Such an arrangement would strain relations with the Colonies; it would be impossible to be just to all alike.

(c) It would rouse the enmity of foreign powers.

(d) We should be dependent on the Colonies; if we wished to change any duty, we should first have to ask their permission and they might very well refuse.

Some people only object to the food tax. In England living is comparatively cheap. It is a question whether the producer or the consumer would pay the duty. Other people object to the whole idea of a Preferential Tariff; in England the wages are higher and the working hours shorter than in any other European country.

We must beware of comparing England with any non-European country, as the conditions would be different.

Also, we must remember there is another view of Protection, protection of home industries; laying a tax on the consumer for the benefit of the producer.

Step VII.—These are the chief points in the new policy. Tell the girls I should like them to read Mr. Chamberlain’s last speech, if they have not already done so; and show them how the newspaper is our “present history book.”