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Empire by fraudulent posters of the big and little loaf—Lord Randolph boldly unfurled the banner of Imperialism in his Birmingham address in 1885. He wrote:
The policy of the Tory Party is before you ... to evolve from the region of sentiment such forces as may enable the Mother Country to tighten the bonds of union between herself and our Colonies, and to rear on a practical and permanent basis, for defensive and commercial purposes, that Imperial Federation of the subjects of the Queen which many wise and far-seeing minds regard as essential to the perpetuation of our power. .. In a word, to govern the British Empire by the light of commonsense. That is the policy of the Tory Party.
In this well-considered appeal of Lord Randolph Churchill to the Imperial as well as the commercial instincts of the British democracy there was no suggestion that 'your food will cost you more.' My own belief, founded on this and other of his utterances, and especially on the Stockton speech in 1887, of which I shall speak more at length presently, is, that Lord Randolph had, even in 1885, begun to realise the possibility, subsequently worked out and demonstrated by Mr. Chamberlain, that Imperial Preference may be attained, and must be attained, without any of the evils of Protection. The lack of this inspiration was undoubtedly the weak point of the early Fair Trade movement, as Lord Randolph, with many other Fair Traders, pointed out and tried to remedy.
In a great speech at Hull on the 31st of October, 1881, when speaking of the liaison between the Radicals and the Parnellites, Lord Randolph declared that Mr. Gladstone was bringing us to be an Empire disintegrated at home and abroad, with our commerce waning, with our industries decayed-dependent for all the necessaries of life on the bounty or on the cupidity of the foreigner, with the mass of our labour, skilled and unskilled, driven by free imports to othr lands.
And again, at King's Lynn, just before the General Election of 1885, in an eloquent address on the needs of the agricultural labourer, and the so-called “Free Trade' of the Liberal Party, Lord Randolph used these remarkable words:
The disadvantage of 'Free Trade’ to the agricultural interest has been that it has diminished employment in agricultural districts. There is one thing which neither Mr. Jesse Collings nor Mr. Arch can possibly deny, and that is that owing to the introduction of Free Trade, owing to the importation of foreign corn, arable cultivation in many parts of England has become almost impossible. Now
every year you will find that the acreage of land under corn crops is showing a very large diminution. I think a diminution very nearly at the rate of a million acres a year-something very large—and you must remember that this diminution cannot possibly stop-under our present system cannot be arrested. It must go on, and that diminution of the area of land under corn crops means a continually increasing diminution of agricultural employment, and it also means the emigration of the agricultural population either to our large towns or to our Colonies or to America. That has been the result of the importation
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And at Woodstock on the 31st of January, 1884, dealing with Mr. Bright and Mr. Cobden as Free Traders, Lord Randolph spoke of them as
Two plundering cuckoos, who shamefully ejected Mr. Charles Villiers from the nest which he had constructed, and who reared therein their own chattering and' silly brood.
I advise those who so lustily cheered Mr. Bright on Tuesday and so terrifically groaned at his opponents, by no manner of means to read over the speeches of Mr. Charles Villiers, if they wish to see the repeal of the corn laws maintained ; for they would find that every prophecy which was ventured upon, every blessing which was promised, every hope which was raised by that distinguished man in support of his case, and which was repeated second-hand by Mr. Bright and Mr. Cobden, had been falsified, denied, and disappointed.
• The chattering and silly brood' of Mr. Cobden is a phrase of Lord Randolph Churchill's that has much interest at the present day.
But undoubtedly the most striking of all these declarations was Lord Randolph's reference to this subject in his famous ' Union Party' speech at the Pomona Gardens, Manchester, on the 3rd of March, 1886, on the occasion of the Home Rule Bill. Turning for a moment from the all-absorbing question of the hour, he said :
There is another subject which I cannot pass by to-night. I allude to the depression of British trade ; and in connection with the question of British trade I cannot help bringing before you the serious question of the unemployed in England. Vast numbers of British artisans—I regret to say, greatly increasing numbers—from competition, free imports, and one cause or another, are unable by their skill and intelligence to earn their daily bread. ... Let us go in for a party of union; and it is not only to be a party of union of the United Kingdom, but it is also to be a party which supports as its great and main and leading principle union with our Colonies and union with our Indian Empire. I offer this without further elaboration to your most earnest attention, because I believe it is only by the union of all the subjects of the Queen in all parts of the world—that it is only by the reinvigorated co-operation, cohesion, and consolidation of all parts of the widely scattered British Empire—that it is only by such a policy of union that you can hope to restore to your commerce, to your industries, their lost prosperity.
These sentiments were received with such vociferous applausein Manchester--that Lord Randolph wound up his great speech, and sat down without returning to the Irish question at all.
And in this connection I may perhaps be pardoned a personal reference, as illustrating Lord Randolph's views. Just a year before, I had contributed to the National Review of March 1885, with his hearty approval-signalised shortly afterwards in a marked mannera signed article entitled 'Is an Imperial Fiscal Policy Possible ?' Of course I do not presume to attach any authority to that article, or to claim for it Lord Randolph's inspiration. But I am certain that at the time it followed his lead precisely; and it advocated the combination of Fair Trade with Imperial Preference exactly on the lines of Mr. Chamberlain's proposals.
I might multiply almost indefinitely the quotations from Lord Randolph's speeches pointing in the direction of Imperial Preference. I turn now to his declarations of the urgent need for some fiscal defence against the industrial inroads of the foreigner-known as “ Fair Trade' or (less happily, as only describing its aspect in unfortunate and exceptional circumstances) as “ Retaliation. These declarations of his were, I think, unconditioned until after his breach with the Tory Government in 1886, though never incompatible with the provisoes— very reasonable ones, as all Tariff Reformers will agree-which he subsequently insisted on. Of these declarations, I will only quote two.
For the first of these quotations, I will go to the famous Blackpool speech of the 24th of January, 1884—a speech which raised somewhat unduly the hopes of Mr. Jennings and those Fair Traders who trusted that Lord Randolph would put himself at the head of the movement for Fair Trade pure and simple—i.e., Retaliation without the dangers' of Imperial Preference. Lord Randolph, after eloquently descanting on the Gladstonian policy in Ireland and the Soudan, turned to the question of British industry in these words :
What is the state of things in the world of British industry? We are suffering from a depression of trade extending as far back as 1874—ten years of trade depression--and the most hopeful either among our capitalists or our artisans can discover no signs of a revival. Your iron industry is dead, dead as mutton ; your coal industries, which depend greatly on the iron industries, are languishing. Your silk industry is dead, assassinated by the foreigner. Your woollen industry is in articulo mortis, gasping, struggling. Your cotton industry is seriously sick. The shipbuilding industry, which held out longest of all, is come to a standstill. Turn your eyes where you will, survey any branch of British industry you like, you will find signs of mortal disease. The self-satisfied Radical philosophers will tell you it is nothing; they point to the great volume of British trade. Yes, the volume of British trade is still large, but it is a volume which is no longer profitable ; it is working and struggling. So do the muscles and nerves of the body of a man who has been hanged twitch and work violently for a short time after the operation. But death is there all the same ; life has utterly departed, and suddenly comes the rigor mortis. Well, but with this state of British industry what do you find going on? You find foreign iron, foreign wool, foreign silk and cotton pouring into the country, flooding you, drowning you, sinking you, swamping you ; your labour market is congested, wages have sunk below the level of life, the misery in our large towns is too frightful to contemplate, and emigration or starvation is the remedy which the Radicals offer you with the most undisturbed complacency. But what produced this state of things ? Free imports ? I am not sure ; I should like an inquiry ; but I suspect free imports of the murder of our industries much in the same way as if I found a man standing over a corpse and plunging his knife into it I should suspect that man of homicide, and I should recommend a coroner's inquest and a trial by jury. Of this you may be certain—that an impartial inquiry into this great question will put more money into your pockets and more hope into your hearts than any Reform Bill. Do you know what Free Trade means in the mouth of the latter-day Radicals ? It means that articles of food, necessaries of life coming from abroad, which can be produced at home, shall be taxed heavily, and that articles of manufacture, luxuries coming from abroad, and which can be produced at home, shall be admitted duty free. Do
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you know that your cocoa is taxed at 13 per cent., your coffee at 18 per cent., your dried fruits, currants, &c., 26 per cent., your tea 47 per cent., the poor man's tobacco 504 per cent., your rum 504 per cent., your brandy 114 per cent. ? Observe this curiosity—that rum, which comes from a British colony, is taxed five times as heavily as brandy, which comes from France ; and with all this, silk, leather, wool, and iron are all coming into the country duty free, and hopelessly underselling your own products and driving your industrial population to America, to the Colonies, to the workhouse, or to the prison. Do you under. stand the reason of all this? I frankly confess I do not. Do you think the House of Commons would be wasting its time if it looked into all these matters carefully ? Suppose a merchant were to find his expenditure greatly increased, his revenue greatly diminished, and his resources greatly failing, and under these circumstances were to occupy the whole of his time with the differential calculus, or with inquiries into interplanetary space. You would think him very foolish, not to say mad, and you would anticipate his speedy ruin. Well, the English people will be exactly like that merchant if at such a moment as the present they occupy the whole of their time with great and wild schemes of legislation, and leave the real, hard, practical business of life to take care of itself. Yet that is the course recommended to you by the Radical Party.
It will occur to many readers that much of this might have been uttered in the present year of grace.
But Lord Randolph was speaking before the age of Imperial Conferences and full Colonial development.
The only other quotation I shall make in this connection is from Lord Randolph's great “Come over and help us' speech, delivered at Sheffield on the 4th of September, 1885. And the words I shall quote are specially noticeable for one thing—that the speech was a direct appeal to Lord Hartington, who was always known as belonging to the straitest sect of Cobdenites :
We have given an indication of one branch of our policy, which is to revive trade, and we have issued a Royal Commission to inquire into the great and prolonged depression which has overtaken the trade of the country. The Liberal Party, as you are aware, held aloof from that Commission ; indeed, it is the only domestic subject on which the Liberal Party has been united-viz., that they will have nothing whatever to do with any inquiry the result of which may possibly tend to improve and revive the trade of England. I heard last night a rebuke indirectly addressed to the Liberal Party by a very great authority not, indeed, an English authority, but perhaps a greater authority than any English authorityI allude to the American Minister. His Excellency came down here last night to your Cutlers' Feast, and made one of the most interesting speeches that I ever listened to, and the American Minister went out of his way and took occasion to say he was extremely glad that the present Government had appointed a Commission to inquire into the great depression of trade. I think that is a very good answer to those Liberals who, from party passion and party prejudice, refused to use their influence and abilities and knowledge and experience to try at any rate to revive, or to see whether they by any possibility could revive, the trade of Britain, which affects so many thousands of their fellow countrymen.
Mr. Churchill admits that his father had urged the Fair Trade cause 'with characteristic vigour and happy irresponsibility ’; but, he adds, as his influence and knowledge increased, his assurance
upon fiscal matters diminished.' With all respect, I submit that this statement is absolutely traversed by the facts. Could any 'assurance upon fiscal matters' be stronger than that which I have quoted above from Lord Randolph's speech at the Pomona Gardens, Manchester, on the 3rd of March, 1886 ? And yet that moment marked the very zenith of his career. He had already been for some months Secretary of State for India with a seat in the Cabinet; five months later, he was to become Chancellor of the Exchequer, Leader of the House of Commons, and perhaps the most powerful man in England; and five months later still (unhappily for his country, his party, and himself) that career was closed for ever, so far as power and influence were concerned. Tenniel's great cartoons in Punch at this period— * The Grand Young Man' (Dizzy's shade and Randolph), “Youth on the Prow and Pleasure at the Helm' (Salisbury and Randolph), and Bellerophon Junior’-sufficiently mark Lord Randolph's commanding position in the country. And the infinitely interesting correspondence that passed during the stormy Christmas recess of 1885– 1886 between Lord Randolph and Lord Salisbury, and also between him and some of the other Conservative leaders, that was published by Mr. Churchill, proves beyond the possibility of doubt that, at the time of the Pomona Gardens speech, Lord Randolph divided with Lord Salisbury the hegemony of the nascent Unionist Party.
And I submit that these facts, taken with Lord Randolph's clear and explicit demand, in the words I have quoted from his Pomona Gardens speech, for commercial union between the United Kingdom and the Colonies and India, prove two important points : First, that Lord Randolph himself, at the time of his greatest influence and the full maturity of his powers, regarded that commercial union as a cardinal feature of the Unionist policy, second only to the duty of maintaining the Union with Ireland ; and, secondly, they show that for all practical purposes the Conservative Party at that moment (March 1886) was virtually unanimous in supporting that policy of Imperial Preference. For at that moment Lord Randolph spoke for his party with an authority as great as that which is wielded by Mr. Balfour to-day, and in those supremely critical hours that preceded the introduction of the Home Rule Bill he was the last man in England to run the risk of creating any friction in the party. It was, indeed, I remember, bruited at the time that one of the Conservative leaders was for Cobden-and the suspicion very seriously diminished his popularity and influence in the Tory Party. But all the rest were understood to be for Randolph, and the rank and file of the party were certainly with him, practically to a man.
Hence, when Lord Randolph met Parliament in August 1886, as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House, there were wild rumours flying about of his intention to go in at once for Fair Trade. But the Times, with its usual political insight and prescience,