13 FEBRUARY 1909, Page 12


[TO TUN EDITOR Or TIER "SPECTATOR."] 131;--Between the Unionists who are determined for Tariff Reform at any cost, and those, like yourself, who in the fullest sense are convinced Free-traders, there must be many, like myself, who disapprove of fiscal change for less heroic reasons. Some of us are willing to admit the possibility of encouraging here and there a lagging industry without detriment to the country as a whole if there were some sufficiently competent and absolutely impartial person or persons who could be trusted to diagnose needs and apply fitting and more or less temporary remedies. We, however, quite disbelieve in such a Medium as this, but, on the contrary, foresee that, as in the ease of other countries, once on the slippery slide of Protection, there will be no withstanding the claims and the cupidity of Private interests. Thus the remedy is sure to prove worse than the disease, which in our view is not sufficiently serious to justify such risks. But in the path of the Tariff Reformer is a worse difficulty than this. The time is left behind us when wars of any kind can be waged successfully by half-hearted nations. And whatever be the result of a General Election on the cry of Tariff Reform, it is simply inconceivable that a sufficient majority can be obtained in these islands to wage successfully a tariff war. Before we can win in such a strife as would be provoked amongst our llerghbours by the new duties we should impose, the people as a Whole must be eo convinced of the merits of the case as to be prepared to meet and to suffer, as long as may be necessary, all the pains and the penalties of retaliative measures. And

until a large majority of the country is screwed up to this pitch it will be simple madness to invite such attacks. Will any sane person say there is such a majority at present ? Moreover, the knowledge of a very powerful opposition in this country to any serious fiscal change is not confined to our- selves, but is the common property of all the nations, and as a consequence a tariff warfare would be all the more embittered and prolonged. Also, of what eminence are the leaders in this new campaign—all those not entirely of their advanced (or retrograde) views having been first cast adrift—that they should commit us to a forlorn hope just when a strong and a united lead would almost surely secure an early victory at the