24 DECEMBER 1904, Page 7

copies of it had been sold. Possibly it was this

success that commended to Mr. Arnold-Forster the decisive course he has taken. Had the sale been less brisk he might have allowed the book to remain unchanged. Instead of this, edition after edition has been called for, and we may suppose with good reason that since the author has become a Cabinet Minister the demand has not grown less. Probably the importunity of the publishers has led him to look back at what he wrote before political eminence was to him anything more than a dream. He has turned over the pages to see if there are any passages which in the light of riper know- ledge seem inadequate or untrue. And he has found five paragraphs—five terrible paragraphs—on " Taxes on Bread." Determined to run no risks, he has struck them all out from the new edition.

In 1902 " The Citizen Reader" gave a very clear and succinct account of what took place in the " hungry forties." At that time, it said, " all the corn that came into England was taxed." That surely is a harmless, because an indisputable, statement. That the next sentence should somewhat startle Mr. Arnold-Forster in his present character we can under- stand, but a very slight alteration would have put it right. " Of course those who bought the bread which was made from this corn were the payers of this tax." We should. not have been surprised if the two words we have italicised had disappeared under the Minister's blue pencil. Accord- ing to the new political economy, there is no necessary connection between taxation and price. But there may be an accidental connection, and as bread did become very dear under the Corn-laws, the offending sentence would have been all right if the words " Of course " had been left out. The " hungry forties " would then have been presented to us, not as necessarily hungry, but only as hungry by coin- . cidence. The paragraph then went on : " The consequence of this was that bread became very dear." Here again nothing but verbal correction was wanted. We can hardly imagine that Mr. Arnold-Forster means to deny that bread did become very dear in the years of which he is speaking ; and if he is not prepared to deny it, where was the object of excluding the statement from "The Citizen Reader" ? The missing sentence was certain to be supplied by the kindness of some stranger. It would have answered his purpose quite sufficently if he had left out "The consequence of this was that,"—if, that is to say, he had admitted the effect, but denied. that it had anything to do with the cause. Next came two statements that we should have thought were quite harmless. The first is that " bread is necessary for everybody." Where is the harm in this ? Probably Mr. Arnold-Forster was thinking of Mr. Cham- berlain's famous promise that though under his system bread may cost the workman more, yet tea and tobacco will be so much cheaper that he will be a richer man with the dear loaf than he is now with the cheap loaf. But the disciple has seemingly read into the master's words more than they really contain. He appears to have thought that, in Mr. Chamberlain's opinion, tea and tobacco will take the place of bread as necessaries of life,—which Mr. Cham- berlain has not said, at least as yet. Nor need the second statement have caused him any uneasiness : " The number of those who could not afford to pay for a dear loaf was very great." Surely nothing would have been risked by admitting this of the time to' which the words relate. That in the " hungry forties " there were many people who could not afford to pay for a dear loaf is a matter of history, and the wisest form that Mr. Arnold-Forster's revision could have taken would have been to leave the statement as it stood and to add something like this,— " because there was no Mr. Chamberlain to make them able to afford it by the readjustment of other taxes."

The sentences that immediately follow in the 1902 edition are a bare narration of what actually happened. There was much " suffering and distress " and many " riots and disturbances," and the people grew "angry with an unjust and harmful law," and committed acts of violence " which showed how real and how great was the suffering which had been caused." All this disappears in the new edition. It is not our function to teach Mr. Arnold-Forster his business ; but if it were, we should certainly suggest that the wisest course for him to take would be to admit the dearness of bread, and the suffering and rioting which followed upon it, and to refer it, not to the Corn-laws, but to the absence of that scientific Pro- tection which the Tariff Reform Commission will by and by propose to us. To ignore the " hungry forties " alto- gether is only to provoke the publication of fresh facts in regard to them, and that is not at all likely to further the great cause. The next of the omitted paragraphs also contains facts that it is impossible to deny. For a long time, we learn, the agitation for the abolition of the Corn- tax was unsuccessful. Mr. Arnold-Forster will hardly question that. But at last, in the year 1845, " an Act of Parliament called The Act for the Repeal of the Corn- laws' was passed, and this oppressive tax upon the people's food was done away with." We concede that the adjective " oppressive " may now be distasteful to Mr. Arnold-Forster, and its omission from the edition of the present year would have been natural and harmless. The facts are quite as effective without the unnecessary epithet. But even if the repeal of the Corn-laws was a very great mistake, it is still a mistake that was actually made. Indeed, had it not been made, Mr. Chamberlain's present agitation would be unmeaning. Why, then, should that large public for which " The Citizen Reader " was intended, and which has so evidently read and valued it, be kept ignorant of a fact which is not only a part of history, but is indispensable to the intelligent study of Mr. Chamberlain's speeches ? We may ask the same question about the last paragraph. " The men who took the leading part in bringing about this great change will always be famous in English history. They were Richard Cobden, John Bright, Charles Villiers, and Sir Robert Peel." What was Mr. Arnold-Forster's reason for deleting these seemingly innocent words ? It can hardly be that he scruples to speak of these men as " famous," for the name of Cobden has been on the lips of every Tariff Reformer ever since Mr. Chamberlain's first Protectionist speech. Possibly there are enthusiasts who would prefer to call him " infamous," but most of us have ceased to withhold the more polite term from conspicuous political opponents. The four men whom Mr. Arnold-Forster thought worthy of mention in "The Citizen Reader" down to 1902 have precisely the same claim in 1904. The task of the historian will certainly be greatly simplified if for the future he is to pass a wet sponge over the name of every politician from whom he has come to differ, but the result will be to make history so uninteresting that he will not in the end be a gainer by the chance. Still, if Protectionists like to ignore all that has happened since the time when corn was taxed for the benefit of the grower, it is not for Free-traders to raise any objection. History does not fade from the recollection of the nation because it pleases a political party to forget its lessons and to black out the facts which convey them. Mr. Arnold- Forster's attempt to play the part of Protectionist censor can at most give additional value to the earlier editions of what, even with these singular omissions, is still an excellent little book.