THE LIBERAL PARTY AND FREE-TRADE.
cre THU EVITOR OF TO• "SPECTATOR.'] SIR,—If Unionist Free-traders wish to see Liberal candidates stand aside on behalf of Unionist Free-trade M.P.'e (see Spectator, March 20th), would it not be well if they would take some active steps to justify such a course of policy ? For instance, what assistance did the Unionist Free-Trade Club at Glasgow give to Mr. Gibson Bowles in the recent election? They held a meeting, and decided to do nothing. Surely here was a chance for a Free-trade club to justify its existence. No; they decided to take no active part in the election, although Free-trade was the dominant issue before the electors,
and it was for Free-trade that Mr. Gibson Bowles had severed his connexion with his old party. It has been the same story all along. In the last Parliament we might have given material assistance to the Free-trade cause by forming a party and co-operating actively with Liberal Free-traders. As usual, we did nothing,—i.e., as a party. A few stalwarts went into the lobby with the Liberal Free-traders, but others abstained or supported the Government in several critical divisions. Is it to be wondered at that such lukewarm and flabby support of the Free-trade cause has not sufficiently appealed to Liberals to induce them to stand aside or with- draw their own candidates in favour of Unionists ? If the latter had, on their side, shown themselves more willing to make some sacrifice for the faith which they hold in common with Liberals, it is probable that the course suggested by your correspondent would have been facilitated. When a Unionist Free-trade club withholds its support in an important election from the Free-trade candidate because of his views on some other question, Liberals may well be pardoned if they are not eager to withdraw their own candidates in favour of a Unionist Free-trader with whose views on other questions they too may be in disagreement. Unionist Free-traders as a political force have lost their opportunity.—I am, Sir, &c., [Mr Younger forgets that the Unionist Free-trader is bound to uphold both the Union and Free-trade. Mr. Bowles avowed himself a Home-ruler, and obtained the support of the Nationalists. At the General Election the Unionist Free-traders made no small sacrifice for Free-trade by voting against their party and in favour of Liberal candidates. The Liberals, instead of acknowledging that sacrifice by the kindred sacrifice of not pressing their Socialistic policy in Parliament, have carried it out in its extreme form by committing the nation to a perpetual expenditure of some 210,000,000 a year on old-age pensions. By this policy they have dealt a severe blow against Free- trade, and made it very difficult for Free-traders who are also Unionists and anti-Socialists to co-operate with them.— ED. Spectator.]