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against those amiable enthusiasts on the Treasury Bench who have beguiled themselves with the illusion that they were “killing Home Rule by kindness.” The Irish leader emphatically declared that there was no alternative to Home Rule, and he advocated the national cause with dramatic fervour. In passing he assailed the Government for playing with the Roman Catholics of Ireland on the University question, upon which he coolly demanded the immediate production of that Ministerial measure, which he hinted had been the subject of recent negotiations in Ireland. What added peculiar piquancy to Mr. Redmond's tirade was that on the very same day Mr. Chamberlain was engaged in the patriotic task of saving the Liberal Unionist organisation from being disbanded by the Duke of Devonshire on the pretext that Home Rule had ceased to be a national peril, and that all political action must be subordinated to the preservation of Free Imports After hearing the admirable speech of Mr. Chamberlain at the Westminster Palace Hotel, the assembled Liberal Unionist delegates very wisely decided to repudiate the Duke of Devonshire's effort to sacrifice Unionism to Free Foodism, and resolved to maintain their organisation. Mr. Redmond has been unwillingly a valuable co-operator with Mr. Chamberlain in preserving Liberal Unionism. The Irish leader obtained but cold comfort from Mr. Wyndham, who was forced to confess that though he shared Mr. Balfour's and Mr. Redmond's views regarding a Catholic University, they had been unable to convert the Cabinet, and could not there:ore coerce the Party. Let us be thankful for small mercies.
The next item was the much-advertised attack of Mr. Robson, one of the many hungry Radical lawyers now on the prowl, who moved an amendment founded on the report of the War Commission, condemning the Government for their want of preparation for the South African War. This is surely a case of the pot calling the kettle black, for while it is impossible for any patriotic Englishman to defend the performance of the Government in failing to foresee a war which they subsequently pronounced to have been “inevitable,” it is not for a Party steeped in Pro-Boerism to cast the first stone—or, indeed, any stone. What efforts have ever been made, by Mr. Robson or by any of his political friends, to place either of our fighting services on a fighting footing before, during, or since the South African War 2 What interest are they now taking in the German naval menace to this country?
But though place-hunting politicians have no case on the Report of the War Commission, the super-subtle defences of Mr. Wyndham and other Ministers leave us completely cold, because it is the elementary duty of any Government engaged in negotiations pointing to war to be fully prepared for the failure of their diplomacy. This was not done in 1899. At the same time, Mr. Chamberlain, who has never sought to minimise Ministerial shortcomings, had no difficulty in carrying the war into the Opposition camp, and he was able to show that Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman had refused to sink Party differences and facilitate military preparations. After this exposure the Robson debate “petered out,” even the Free Food Unionists having no excuse for voting against the Government, who secured a majority of 86 (278–192). Following up these fruitless reconnaissances, the enemy made a grand frontal attack on February 8, when Mr. Morley proposed his earth-shaking Amendment to the Address, which was understood to represent the combined wisdom of the Opposition Mandarins and the marplots of the Free Food League. After condemning the “conflicting declarations” of his Majesty's Ministers, the Morley Amendment declared “That the removal of protective duties has for more than half a century actively conduced to the vast extension of the trade and commerce of the realm, and to the welfare of its population; and this House believes that, while the needs of social improvement are still manifold and urgent, any return to protective duties, more particularly when imposed on the food of the people, would be deeply injurious to our national strength, contentment, and well-being.” The debate lasted an entire week, at the end of which, in spite of the frantic efforts of the Free Importers, and some truly disastrous utterances from the Treasury Bench, which were, however, largely redeemed by the excellent speeches of Mr. Lyttelton, Mr. Bonar Law and Mr. Wyndham, the Morley amendment, though supported by twentyseven Unionists, was rejected by the substantial majority of fiftyone (327 to 276). The Spectator declared in its issue of February 13: “It is now obvious that the division on Monday night will be taken on the clear issue of Free Trade and Protection. No one who votes against Mr. Morley's Amendment can later expect to be recognised as a genuine supporter of the Free Trade cause.” When it is remembered that among the minority of 276 “genuine supporters of the Free Trade cause” were no less than sixty Irish Nationalists, who through the mouth of their leader specifically reserved judgment on the Fiscal question, and only voted with Mr. Morley in order to destroy the Government, and who throughout to controversy have been described by the Spectator as Protectionists, we can gain some idea of the parlous prospects of the Cobdenite creed in the early years of the twentieth century.
The Opposition had still one big gun in reserve, on which they The Chinese placed even more reliance than on the pieces Amendment. already discharged — viz., an Amendment to the Address moved by Mr. Herbert Samuel declaring the inexpediency of sanctioning any Ordinance permitting the introduction of indentured Chinese labourers into the Transvaal until the approval of the Colonists had been formally ascertained. In a superficial speech the mover affirmed that socially, morally and politically the importation of the Chinaman was intolerable, while economically it was unnecessary. Why should the goldfields of South Africa be the only goldfields in the world which could not be worked with white labour 2 There were two reasons for this policy—viz., disinclination on the part of the mining magnates to reorganise their industry and fear of trade unions and votes. The Amendment was seconded by Major Seely who, together with Mr. Winston Churchill, were later in the debate wittily described by Mr. Cust as “being willing to accept any Leaders on either side of the House who are prepared to follow them.” Mr. Lyttelton, the Colonial Secretary, in a long and exhaustive reply which greatly enhanced his rapidly rising reputation, satisfied the House of Commons that he had acted wisely in assenting to the policy of the Transvaal Government, which had been approved by the Legislative Council, and was endorsed by the great consensus of public opinion in the Colony. It was unfortunate that a country should be unable to provide its own labour, and more than unfortunate that white men in Africa would not do the work of black men, but we must take the facts as they were. There was no excuse for the suggestion that the House was being rushed, and the Government had only approved the policy in the belief that the labour to be introduced “would be not a substitute for, but supplemental to, the labour of white men, and would increase and not diminish it,” while it was a vital economic necessity to the Transvaal that the prosperity of its capital industry should be no longer postponed. The demand for a Referendum sounded plausible, but there was no precedent for such a course, which would involve very serious delay, while it was beset with constitutional difficulties. As the Boer Leaders were being appealed to, the Colonial Secretary pertinently reminded the House that their policy was to break up the native locations and to compel the blacks to work. The two days' debate closed, to the unconcealed chagrin of the Opposition, with a Ministerial majority of fifty-one—viz., 281 to 230. Nine Ministerialists voted for the Amendment, but there were a considerable number of abstentions. A subsequent attempt to reverse this vote gave Mr. Lyttelton an opportunity of making a first-class fighting speech and the Government a somewhat larger majority.
The only other debate of which we need take note was the attack on the fiscal policy of the Government in the House of Lords under the auspices of Lord Crewe in a speech which was evidently intended
the Lords. to be witty, seeing that it contained ão jokes about “the travelling mountebanks of the Tariff Reform League.” He asked the Government what steps they proposed to take to give effect to the policy of “Negotiation and Retaliation ” announced by Lord Lansdowne on February 2, and he concluded by moving “That no duty upon imports in the United Kingdom from foreign countries, or from British Colonies and dependencies, should be imposed, modified, or removed, without the formal consent of Parliament to each such proposal.” Lord Salisbury replied on behalf of the Government in a maiden speech with a surprisingly Cobdenite flavour. He did not pretend to have prejudices on the subject, but Protection appeared to him to involve that everything should be dearer, while on the other hand there was no reason to suppose that every one would be richer. He emphatically repudiated Preference, which formed no part of the policy of the Government, and Ministers “were not concerned to defend the policy of that distinguished statesman Mr. Chamberlain.” Their duty was limited to defending their own policy, but unfortunately neither Lord Salisbury nor any of his colleagues have yet furnished any intelligible exposition of the official policy, which the speaker excused himself from doing on the ground that “it was not worth while to elaborate a policy of retaliation and negotiation when noble lords opposite would refuse to accept that policy, whatever the details might be.” But there are other people to be considered besides “noble lords opposite,” and Ministers must realise that they will never be able to persuade the country to buy a pig in a poke. Lord Salisbury added that the Government would regard Lord Crewe's motion as a vote of want of confidence, and he met it by the following amendment: “This House, while affirming the constitutional doctrine that all fiscal arrange
ments of this country must be subject to the full and effective control of Parliament over taxation, is not prepared to lay down rules for the guidance of future Parliaments as to the exact method in which such control should be exercised by them in cases which may hereafter arise.” Lord Selborne managed to put a little wine into the Ministerial water, and showed that he at any rate sympathised with Mr. Chamberlain, while he made effective use of the recent “climb down” of Germany on “the mere whisper of retaliation ” by our Government. Unfortunately, Lord Lansdowne, later in the debate, undid the good effect of Lord Selborne's speech by a repudiation of Preference worthy of Sir Michael Hicks Beach.
The outstanding feature of the debate in the Lords was the effort of the Duke of Devonshire to
The Duke of - - - ... explain his conduct during the fortnight last Devonshire * autumn between the publication of Mr. Balfour's Apologia. pamphlet and the resignation of Lord George Hamilton, Mr. Ritchie, and Lord Balfour of Burleigh, and his own resignation after Mr. Balfour's Sheffield speech. We need not labour the incident, as the Duke's confession is positively disarming. After he knew that Mr. Chamberlain would resign, his own difficulties “were mainly of a personal, not of a public character.” He pointed out to Mr. Balfour that the withdrawal of the Colonial Secretary would probably have the same effect on the minds of those of his colleagues who had already tendered their resignations, and whose resignations had been accepted. But he learnt from Mr. Balfour that the latter had no intention of inviting those particular colleagues to reconsider their resignations. At first the Duke not unnaturally felt that he would be wanting in loyalty to those colleagues “with whom I had been in communication, who had consulted me as to their course, and whom I had consulted as to mine,” unless he at once told them of the important fact of Mr. Chamberlain's resignation, of which they were not aware, and placed himself in their hands. “On reflection, however, I considered that as nothing which I could do would alter their position, I had no right to ask them to take any responsibility for my own conduct, which affected myself alone, and that my decision must be made solely on public grounds.” He therefore decided that, under these new circumstances, it was his duty to stay in the Cabinet and to exercise his influence in guiding or restraining the Ministerial policy. He admitted having seen the sympathetic letter
addressed by Mr. Balfour to Mr. Chamberlain.