[TO THE EDITOR OP THE "SPECTATOR. " ]
SIR,—Your article upon the above in your issue of the 4th inst. has attracted considerable attention in this (Durham) district, and you will perhaps allow me, as a Liberal, heartily to endorse the views therein expressed. It is true that in the case of Durham City you may have been under some little misapprehension as to the precise state of affairs, no decision as to a Liberal candidate having yet been arrived at. This, however, is a matter of detail, and the advice given in the article is none the less to the point both as regards Durham and any other constituency similarly situated. One of the most mischievous features of the Tariff Reform movemeht is this tendency to drive out of public life men whose services are invaluable to their country. It is a sad reflection on our methods that straightforwardness of character should thus be penalised. All Liberals (the exceptions are so small that they may be ignored) are Free-traders. It is therefore their manifest duty to avail themselves of the most feasible means of defeating Protection. And assuredly this consists in sinking for the time being all minor differences for the sake of a pressing immediate need, and presenting a bold and undivided front against the opposing party. But against such a policy it will no doubt be urged by some that it is their duty to return as Members those who on the whole are imbued with Liberal principles, and not those who, though they may be sound on one or two Liberal tenets, are never- theless out of sympathy with them generally. They would, they say, be with us on these one or two points, but
when it comes to a division on some other Liberal measure
they would either stand aside or give an adverse vote. But we must be prepared to sacrifice something. No great achievement is won without it. And if it is to be a question of choice of sacrifice, surely the choice should not fall on the one thing needful in the immediate present for the sake of some hypothetical case in the future.
Another point is worth consideration. The majority of Free-traders in the Government are Liberal Unionists,—
Liberals of the past. We have seen how, owing largely, no doubt, to their association with the Conservative party, many of these have to all intents and purposes become one with
the Government. Clearly it is to the interest of the Liberal party that these should be brought back to the true fold. Here, then, is our opportunity. Enlist them on the side of Free--
trade, and who can say what the influence of their new environment may not have upon them, and through them in the course of time upon the country P Not that they should in any sense be expected to relinquish their spirit of independ- ence. For freedom of thought and action have always been marks of true Liberalism, and must remain so as long as the party is a party of progress. No true progress can take place without it. At the same time, a Member elected under the auspices of a party is not going to vote against it unless his reasons are very weighty. And if such should be the case, then the Liberal party should be liberal enough to acknowledge, and not condemn, such independent judgment. If the Conservative party refuses to recognise it, then by all means let us welcome it whenever the opportunity arises, even though it be at some cost. Honesty of purpose and courage of conviction in adverse circumstances are much more valuable assets than mere loyalty to party can ever be. I trust that here in Durham, and elsewhere throughout the country, the Liberal organisations may, by adopting a con- ciliatory attitude towards Free-trade Unionists, not only make the victory for Free-trade doubly sure, but may also win back many who, but for the split on Home-rule, would never have been arrayed against us. As far as Durham City is concerned, I feel sure they will never regret the support which I believe they will give to Mr. Arthur Elliot.—I am, [We regret having written as if the Durham Liberals had decided to bring out a candidate against Mr. Elliot, and are delighted to find that they have in reality no intention of adopting a course so injurious to the interests of Free-trade.- ED. Spectator.]