21 MAY 1904, Page 4

"AA THEN the proper time comes." The phrase is Mr. Chamberlain's,

not Mr. Balfour's ; but nevertheless it expresses with exactness the attitude of the Prime Minister. When the proper time comes he will tell us what is his real view as to the Chamberlain policy, and whether he is for or against it. Till that time arrives he absolutely refuses to express ani opinion whatever on its merits. Mark, he does not say he has not got an opinion, but he refuses to let any one know what it is. But almost every one else in the kingdom not only has an opinion for or against Mr. Chamberlain's policy, but has expressed it. Some, no doubt, do not go quite as far as Mr. Chamber- lain, even though they are not opposed to him ; but the mass of the electors are prepared either to condemn or to support Tariff Reform. This being the case, the country as a whole would greatly like to hear the opinion of the Prime Minister and head of the Unionist party. In spite, however, of the most pertinacious efforts to obtain an answer to the simple question, "Are you willing to con- demn Chamberlainism ? " Mr. Balfour has maintained an absolute silence. Nothing will induce him to open his lips. On Wednesday he said exactly the same things which he had said on previous occasions, and, so far as words went, gave no indication of his attitude towards Chamber- lainism. The proper time for speaking out had not come, the Chamberlain policy was not before tlie House, and until it was he refused to waste time by expressing any opinion about it. The policy set forth in the Sheffield speech remained the policy of the Government.

But though Mr. Balfour managed on Wednesday night so successfully to evade expressing an opinion on Mr. Chamberlain's policy, it must not be supposed that there is any real obscurity in his attitude. Judged by the test which we have always insisted must be applied—the test of actions, not words—it is quite evident what are Mr. Balfour's views. Mr. Balfour is a Chamberlainite, and when in his judgment the "proper time" comes he will publicly proclaim himself one. To proclaim himself a Chamberlainite at this moment would precipitate a crisis which would destroy the Government and produce a Dissolution. But Mr. Balfour does not want a ])issolu- tion at this moment. Therefore Mr. Balfour does not proclaim his views. Let those who doubt the accuracy of our declaration that Mr. Balfour is at heart a Chamber- lainite examine the ascertained facts. There are two plain and perfectly intelligible policies before the country, set forth by two different sections of the Unionist party. The first is Free-trade • the second is Preference and Protec- tion,—i.e., Tariff Reform. What is Mr. Balfour's attitude towards these ? In the first place, he takes action in the Cabinet of such a kind that the Free-trade Unionists in that body feel obliged to resign.- When they leave in order to safeguard the cause of Free-trade, he does not wish them success in their work. When 'Mr. Chamberlain goes to safeguard Protection, Mr. Balfour bids him God-speed in his great task. That is a pretty obvious proof of his sympathies. A still clearer indication is given by the manner in which he carried out the promotions and additions in his remade Cabinet. He placed Mr. Austen Chamberlain, who agrees with his father's policy in every particular, at the Exchequer; and he appointed men who are in sympathy with Mr. Chamber- lain to take charge of the Colonies and the War Office. In a word, the Cabinet, save for the doubtful and not important cases of Lord Londonderry and Lord Stanley, became a Tariff Reform Cabinet. We imagine that these facts will be quite enough to convince most persons of the true attituda of Mr. Balfour ; but if they want further proof, let them think what the action of the Government has been throughout the Session towards the Chamber- lainites and the Free-traders respectively. There has never been any real difficulty or friction between the Chamberlainites and the Government, and if there has seemed any chance of its arising the Government have hastened to smooth it away, as in the case of the Wharton amendment. As a rule, indeed, there have been abundant signs—they were specially clear on Wednes- day—that the Government and Mr. Chamberlain's fol-


lowers have a complete understanding, and that the Tariff Reformers have not the least anxiety as to the ultimate action of the - Government. They, be it noted, never attempt to interrogate Mr. Balfour or implore him to make clear his position. They have no need to do so ; they know already. How very different is the condition of things as regards the Free-trade Unionists. Here, instead of confidence and understanding, all is "doubt, hesitation, and pain,". forced praise on either side and a general sense of malaise. Though Mr. Balfour has been lavish of words, he has never done anything to restore confidence among the Free-trade Unionists. He has never moved an inch in their direction, and when the tug- of-war took place over the Wharton amendment he threw himself entirely on the side of the Chamberlainites. As was inevitable, the attitude of Free-trade Unionists towards him has been one of anxiety and distrust. Though partly hypnotised by the Premier, they have never been able to show or feel that confidence in him which has marked their opponents. To put it in a nutshell, no foreigner un- informed as to the minutiae of the struggle who visited the House during the debate could have doubted for a moment as to which section of the Unionist party the Prime Minister and his colleagues had committed themselves.

We have set forth the reasons which make it impossible to doubt that Mr. Balfour is at heart not opposed to the Chamberlain policy, is, in reality, a Chamberlainite ; but we feel almost ashamed thus to argue the matter solemnly before our readers. Does any one seriously think that if Mr. Balfour were at heart opposed to the Chamberlain policy the nation would be laboriously dis- cussing the nature of his views thereon ? If he were opposed to that policy there could be, and would be, no doubts on the matter. The only reasonable interpretation of his persistent refusal to condemn the Chamberlain policy is that he is in favoiir of that policy, but does not think it politic to say so too openly. If he had held the balance absolutely even, and had dismissed both Free- trade and Protection with what Dr. Johnson called frigid equanimity, it might perhaps be arguable that he really did not know his own mind on the subject. In the present case, however, that view is untenable, because we have the words of Mr. Balfour's own letter to Mr. Chamberlain. If Mr. Balfour were opposed to Mr. Chamberlain's views, he could never have written that letter, which, since its exact words are too often forgotten, we will here set out verbatim

"10, Downing-street, Whitehall, S.W., Sept. 16, 1903. My dear Chamberlain,—I did not answer your letter of the 9th, which I received shortly before my departure from Scotland for the Cabinet meeting, as I knew that we should within a few hours have an opportunity of talking over the important issues with which it deals. The reply, therefore, which I am now writing rather embodies the rehults of our conversations than adds to them anything which is new.

Agreeing as I do with you that the time has- come when a change should be made in the fiscal canons by which we have bound ourselves in our commercial dealings with other Governments, it seems paradoxical indeed that you should leave the Cabinet at the same time that others of my col- leagues are leaving it who disagree on the very point with us both. Yet I cannot but admit, however reluctantly, that there is some force in the arguments with which you support that course, based as they are upon your special and personal relation to that portion of the controversy which deals with colonial preference. You have done more than any man, living or dead, to bring home to the citizens of the Empire the consciousness of Imperial obligation, and the interdependence. between the various frag- ments into which the Empire is geographically divided. I believe you to be right in holding that this interdependence should find expression in our commercial 'relations as well as in our political and military relations. I believe with you that closer fiscal union between ,the mother country and her Colonies would be good for the trade of both; and that if such closer union could be established on fitting terms its advantages to both parties would increase as the years went on, and as the Colonies grew in wealth and population. If there ever has been any difference between us in connection with this matter, it has only been with regard to the practica- bility of a proposal which would seem to require on the part of the Colonies a limitation in the all-round development of a pro- tective policy, and on the part of this country the establishment of a preference in favour of important colonial products. On the first of these requirements I say nothing, but if the second involves, as it almost certainly does, taxation, however light, upon foodstuffs, I am convinced with you that public opinion is not yet ripe for such an arrangement. The reasons may easily be found in past political battles and present political misrepre-

sentations. If then this branch of fiscal reform is not at present within the limits of practical politics, you are surely right in your advice not to treat it as indissolubly connected with that other branch of fiscal reform to which we both attach importance, and which we believe the country is prepared to consider without prejudice. I feel, however, deeply concerned that you should regard this con- clusion, however well-founded, as one which makes it difficult for you in your very special circumstances to remain a member of the Government. Yet I do not venture, in a matter so strictly personal, to raise any objection. If you think you can best serve the interests of Imperial unity, for which you have done so much, by pressing your views on colonial preference with the freedom which is possible in an independent position, but is hardly com- patible with office, how can I criticize your determination? The loss to the Government is great indeed ; but the gain to the cause you have at heart may be greater still. If so, what can I

do but acquiesce ? Yours very sincerely, ARTHUR JAMES BALFOUR.

P.5.—May I say with what gratification, both on personal and on public grounds, I learn that Mr. Austen Chamberlain is ready to remain a member of the Government ? There could be no more conclusive evidence that in your judgment, as in mine, the exclusion of taxation on food from the party programme is, in existing circumstances, the course best fitted practically to further the cause of fiscal reform."

In view of this letter, of Mr. Balfour's subsequent action, including his speech on Wednesday night, and with a full sense of our responsibility in the matter, we assert that Mr. Balfour is at heart in agreement with Mr. Chamberlain's policy, that Mr. Chamberlain fully understands that this is Mr. Balfour's position, and that it has been agreed between them that at the "proper time," but not till the proper time arrives, Mr. Balfour shall join Mr. Chamber- lain in advocating the policy of Tariff Reform. If our statement of the case is inaccurate, it can be confuted in an instant by Mr. Balfour publicly expressing his disapproval of the Chamberlain policy. If he will do that, he can bring us, and all those Free-trade Unionists who agree with us, to instant confusion. If he will not express such disapproval, but while he keeps silent with his lips allows his deeds to speak for him, no other interpretation of his attitude is reasonable or con- sistent. Mr. Balfour, we repeat, is a Chamberlainite, and at the proper moment will reveal himself as such. That is a conclusion which we, like all Free-trade Unionists, regard with the utmost aversion ; but it is one which we dare not ignore merely because it is unpleasant. It is a fact, and must be faced.