6 JANUARY 1906, Page 10

The question of Free-trade, the Duke continues, occupies a wholly

different position. Under cover of Mr. Balfour's appeal to sanction some undefined departure from the existing fiscal system, the Tariff Reform League, whose proposals are indis- tinguishable from pure Protection, are conducting a vigorous agitation, and have largely captured the party organisations. But in view of Mr. Balfour's declarations that be belongs to the Free-trade wing of his party, and—as regards Preference —that no offer has been made by our Colonies, the Duke sees no reason why the most loyal follower of Mr. Balfour should abstain from rendering his own Free-trade convictions effective, or from offering the strongest opposition to pro- posals which have never been accepted by his leader. In conclusion, the Duke of Devonshire anticipates that an attempt will be made to thrust the Fiscal issue into the background, and to divert attention to others; but "after the controversies and discussions of the last two years this is no longer possible, and the issue of Free-trade or Protection must be the paramount factor in the coming Election." Hence he holds that where Unionist Free-traders may be unable to secure direct representation, it will none the less be their duty to "make their influence felt, and to take such action as may prove that the Unionist party as a whole, whether in power or in Opposition, is still uncommitted to a retrograde Fiscal policy, by whomsoever it may be proposed." That is admirable good sense admirably expressed, and shows that the babble of the political auction-room has not affected in the least the Duke's sane and wise temper of mind, nor the clearness of his statesmanship.