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    Marriage prospects killed by free trade

    Free trade is a bit like religion: economists now agree that it would be a good thing, if it were practiced as much as it is preached. In the nineteenth century, there was as much preaching against free trade as for it. One of the anti-free trade preachers, Toronto’s Mail and Empire, argued that free trade was bad for the marriage prospects of British spinsters, in an item published October 2, 1895.

    No nation embraced free trade more wholeheartedly than Britain. And that “ruthless and ungallant policy,” says the Mail and Empire, has left the island’s “young, beautiful, accomplished, well-born ambitious women” in a “forlorn position on the matrimony market,” while dashing prospects of bachelors restoring their lost fortunes.

    Free trade, it claims, had impoverished Britain—or at least the landed aristocracy who relied on high tariffs on imported grains and other food to reap agricultural profits from their lands and tenants. “From rent rolls that used to pile up fortunes it is now hard to make both ends meet,” the Mail and Empire lamented. No mention was made of free trade benefits for Britain’s manufacturers, merchants, and consumers, i.e., every Briton.

    The result was said to be ruined landed families who could no longer endow their daughters with dowries, thus killing their marriage hopes. As for the bachelors, “To many of them, an advantageous marriage is their only escape from ruin. But where are they to look for rich wives?”

    “In the United States, he finds what he wants,” wealthy young maids, says the paper. “He has a title, pedigree, and ancestral home to offer, while on her part, the bride has millions, to make life in such an altitude of society as magnificent as it ought to be.”

    But “English women and their mammas” will hardly be delighted to see eligible young bachelors flocking to another country for their brides. “What they should do is form a Protection League. They should advocate, and advocate strongly, the protection of the home market.”

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    TAGS: Free trade and protection, Marriage, Spinsters, Britain, Landed aristocracy, Social classes

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