The struggle for trade, then, is very old, because civilization has always created needs which could not be filled locally. For instance, the prehistoric lake dwellers of Switzerland had implements of stone not found in Europe - the nephrite crystal being found only in Egypt and China - so they must have had commerce with the East 6,000 or even 12,000 years ago* It is now believed that the struggle for the possession of the trade routes of Southern Asia was the cause of all the ancient wars radiating from Mesopotania. Jos. Jacobs* clearly shows how the itching for the Eastern trade of Venice, by means of which she became powerful, was the basis of all Portuguese and Spanish discoveries, and that the French and Dutch and English, by stealing into this new ocean traffic, at once became world powers. Deprivation of its trade delayed German nationalization.
Great Britain secured the Eastern trade as she had more native born and "natural-born" seafaring men than any other nation. It was to secure a market for opium that led to the Chinese war, and to secure a market for tea and other Indian products also caused a war in Thibet. The Thibetans consume millions of pounds of tea annually and are compelled to buy it from China whether they desire it or not. It is to be survival of the fittest in this case, and a justifiable measure. If the English win, the Thibetans will drink tea from India and not that from China.
Great Britain's final dependence upon trade is shown by the Suez Canal traffic. In 1902, 3,708 vessels used it, and of these civilization's 2,165 were British. Two-thirds of the present tonnage is British, the rest being mostly German, French and Dutch.
* S. H. M. Byers, Harper's, February, 1890. * The Story of Geographical Discovery.
The electoral address of Lord Rosebery, at the University of Glasgow, November 16th, 1900, explained these laws of expansion. He showed that the struggle for existence among nations has become more and more commercial, and threatens Great Britain's safety. He pointed out the awful error it was for England to fight the thirteen colonies instead of admitting their representatives to Parliament. It is said that in March, 1900, two and three-tenths per cent, of British artisans could not get work; in 1901 it was three and six-tenths per cent.; 1902, three and seven-tenths per cent.; in 1903, four and three-tenths per cent., and in 1904, six per cent. This indicates overpopulation, of course, but it is generally believed to be due to industrial depression, that is, there would be less overpopulation if they could sell their manufactured goods as well as formerly. It is partly a result of the American trade invasion. If it continues the population must decline.
In some grades of iron ore Great Britain has only twenty-five years' supply, and the United States has seventy years' supply of first-class ore. Germany has more in sight than America, but is using it up very rapidly. The iron ore in sight in Spain, Russia, Sweden and Austria, and the tremendous stores in China, would keep England, Germany and the United States supplied for several centuries, and this trade will eventually be a vital matter. It is said that our anthracite coal at present rates of exhaustion cannot last seventy-five years, and the other supplies in the world are insignificant except those 40,000 square miles of it in China. Anglo-Saxon civilization will soon depend on this store. To be sure we will eventually use all the water power now going to waste, but that will require moving all our factories from the neighborhood of the coal and oil fields to the vicinity of the water falls. Though that time is very far off, yet there is considerable fear that the invention of methods of using this power will not be rapid enough, and that as our hard coal disappears we must import that of China. The coal and iron which Japan finds in Manchuria, will pay the costs of her late war several times over.