4 MARCH 1905, Page 4



A FORTNIGHT ago we likened Mr. Chamberlain to a man who has lighted a fire on an ice-floe, and finds that though his fire blazes fiercely enough at first, he can- not maintain it. As he watches it dying out he sees, too, the shadowy background "with dreadful faces thronged," —the faces of those on whom he once counted to help him to keep up the fire. The two weeks that have passed have proved the soundness of our metaphor. The fire has dwindled still further since we wrote, and the faces in the firelight have grown even more ominous and unfriendly. But the dwindling of enthusiasm for Tariff Reform, and the falling away of so many men who a year ago appeared to be ardent supporters of Mr. Chamberlain, are not the only difficulties against which he has to strive. Others equally formidable have followed in their train. It has always been contended by Mr. Chamberlain's followers, and tacitly admitted by himself, that he had the power whenever he chose to call for a Dissolution. That power has now slipped away from him. Mr. Balfour, the arch-enchanter, has woven such a chain of spells around him that, much as he would like to call for a Dissolution, he is now paralysed and cannot do so. When he resolves to step out of the manic circle he finds that he can stir neither hand nor foot. magic we translate our metaphor into ordinary language it will be seen how exact it is. Mr. Chamberlain could not, against Mr. Balfour's will, precipitate a Dissolution without some sort of estrangement or coldness first taking place between them. Mr. Chamberlain, if he is to act contrary to his friend and leader's wishes, must have some reason- able excuse. But this excuse Mr. Balfour is determined not to give him. He heaps on Mr. Chamberlain obliga- tions which Mr. Chamberlain cannot in decency refuse, and yet which, if accepted, bind him in honour not to force Mr. Balfour's hand.

Take for example the Sparkbrook episode. The War Office determined, doubtless on sufficient grounds, not to give any further work to the Royal Small Arms Factory at Sparkbrook, a suburb of Birming- ham. Against this decision Mr. Jesse Collings and the local Birmingham people appealed in vain. The War Office declared that, in the public interest, they could not alter their decision. Thereupon Mr. Chamber- lain, who never deserts any Birmingham interest, made a personal appeal to the Prime Minister to have the decision of the War Office revised. In ordinary circumstances the Premier would, of course, have sup- ported the Department; but the circumstances are not ordinary. Accordingly Mr. Balfour, in spite of the humiliation involved in altering a departmental decision already officially announced as final, publicly throws over the War Office and yields to Mr. Chamberlain. That is a great public victory for Mr. Chamberlain, no doubt ; but then it lays Mr. Chamberlain under an obligation to Mr. Balfour which cannot be forgotten for at least six months. ;Unless purveyors of Lobby information are entirely at fault, the appointment of Lord Selborne to be High Commissioner in South Africa is another example of an obligation laid upon Mr. Chamberlain by the Premier. Since it was known that Lord Milner was coming home the successorship to his post has been eagerly canvassed, and many names have been suggested ; but it has always been understood that the man of Mr. Chamberlain's choice was Lord Selborne, —Mr. Chamberlain's vice-president in the Liberal Unionist Association, and a convinced and loyal adherent of the Chamberlain policy. No doubt lord Selborne is also very much in Mr. Balfour's confidence, but his appointment last spring to be the vice-president of Mr. Chamberlain's Liberal Unionist organisation has marked him out in a very special degree as a Chamberlainite. His appointment, therefore, to South Africa cannot but be regarded as laying Mr. Chamberlain under another obligation, and an obligation which must be acknowledged by deference to the Prime Minister's views in the matter of a Dissolution. We shall perhaps see Mr. Chamberlain laid under yet another obligation in the appointment of a Chamberlainite to the Irish office. But though these are important spells to bind Mr. Chamberlain to inaction, the most important has not yet been recited. It is the fact that Mr. Austen Chamberlain is Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Chamberlain's devotion to his son is as well known as it is creditable in every way to the leader of the Tariff Reformers. But while Mr. Austen Chamberlain is Chan- cellor of the Exchequer, and so Mr. Balfour's chief colleague, how can Mr. Chamberlain do anything which will destroy the Cabinet ? Mr. Austen Chamberlain, contrary to all expectations, is about to find, himself in the position desired above all things by Chancellors of the Exchequer. Instead of there being, as it was feared, a deficit, he is going to show a surplus, and he will thus be able to win the praise and popularity that belong to the public financier who takes off instead of imposing burdens on the taxpayer. Mr. Chamberlain may sigh as a Tariff Reformer, but he is obliged to acquiesce as a father in the plea that Mr. Austen Chamberlain must be allowed time to introduce his Budget, and to prove to the country that the great Chancellors of the Exchequer in the past have found a worthy successor in the Member for East Worcestershire. The moment that Mr. Chamberlain desires to break out of the circle he is, in fact, confronted with the magic sign that stands fo' his son's reputation as Finance Minister. In a word, Mr Cham- berlain is charmed into inaction in whatever direction he tries to move. The only excuse that has been given him for declaring that he must insist on a Dissolution is Sir A Acland-Hood's letter to the Unionist organisation at Greenwich insisting that Lord Hugh Cecil must not be turned out of his seat because he has opposed the Chamber- lain policy. This is no doubt a disagreeable blow, but it is softened by the concurrent understanding that the action which has been taken is purely exceptional, and that no other Unionists who oppose Mr. Chamberlain are to expect similar treatment. For example, Mr. Arthur Elliot has been told, in effect, that if he is opposed in Durham, it serves him right. Again, the arrangement that Mr. Gibson Bowles was to be supported by two alleged Free-trade members of the Administration—Lord Stanley and Mr. Ailwyn Fellowes—has been promptly knocked on the head. To Unionist Free-traders who are not members of Mr. Balfour's immediate family circle no mercy is to be shown. For them opposition to the Chamberlain policy is to mean exclusion from the Government party. Thus Mr. Chamberlain, after all his hard work in favour of Tariff Reform, finds himself paralysed, and unable to move. The Premier has showered, and con- tinues to shower, on him every conceivable favour and to do his bidding on every point, and yet Mr. Chamberlain remains a prisoner. Vivien has shut Merlin up in the enchanted tower. Though its walls are air, and though Vivien is the kindest and most considerate of gaolers, the prisoner can no more escape than if the walls were of steel and the gaoler fierce and tyrannical.

Our readers must not suppose, however, that because Chamberlainism is for the time paralysed, and because the fire is dying out, they have therefore seen an end to the policy of Tariff Reform, and that it is no longer to be dreaded. It is still possible that Merlin, throwing all considerations, parental and otherwise, to the winds, will break out and insist on an appeal to the country. When he does so the fire will for a time blaze up again with its old fierceness, and the united efforts of all Free-traders will be required to put it out once and. for all. Therefore no Unionist Free-trader must in the slightest degree abate his vigilance, or his determination to make the necessary and heavy personal sacrifices that are required in the interest of Free-trade. Unionist Free- traders must continue their work of organising with unflagging energy, and must not fail to deal their blows, not only against the Chamberlainites, but against all who will not declare themselves opposed to the Chamberlain policy, and willing to make their opposition effective and not merely nominal. Unless they will do that, Oh amberlainism will revive, and if it revives Mr. Balfour will once again allow himself to be captured by it. The metaphor which we employed eighteen months ago of the hind and the two stags is as true now as ever it was. Mr. Balfour is the hind, and waits to see which of the two stags, the Protectionist or the Free-trade, will win in the encounter. Probably the hind would prefer to be captured by the Protectionist claimant, but this will not prevent her following the Free- trade combatant should he be successful. To change our simile, Mr. Balfour, like Talleyrand, is determined. not so much to win as to be on the winning side, whichever it is. There is a story of an anxious politician going to visit Talleyrand during a period of street fighting in Paris in 1830. . Talleyrand was walking up and down the room, and whenever he heard a discharge of cannon or of small-arms he stopped and rubbed his hands with the exclamation : " Splendid ! We are winning ! " The politician, imagining that the great man had some secret information as to how the fighting was going, asked hint which side was winning. To this Talleyrand replied : "I will tell you later." He needed no special information, because he was certain that which- ever side won that side would be his side. Mr. Balfour is equally determined to be on the winning side in the Fiscal controversy. If Mr. Chamberlain were to win, or even to show that he could carry with him the bulk of the Unionist electors, Mr. Balfour would, no doubt, be able to show that he was always at heart a Tariff Reformer, though he wished to go somewhat slower than his impulsive colleague. If the Unionist Free-traders are able to prove that the Unionist party can only recover from its defeat and be made strong again by reconstruction on a Free-trade basis, Mr. Balfour will no doubt be all for abandoning Tariff Reform as an essential of Unionism. Therefore it behoves Unionist Free-traders to be cautious and active. If they make their power felt, and force Mr. Balfour to come to the con- clusion that without them the Unionist party cannot regain power, the party may yet be reconstructed on a Free- trade basis. If their action is feeble or indecisive, Mr. Chamberlain may still have his will, and the " slump " in Chamberlainism prove merely temporary. There is only one way in which the Unionist Free-traders can succeed. They must impress Mr. Balfour with their power and their determination. But he will not take weakness and shilly-shallying as a proof of power. Not until they have made him understand that they are his implacable enemies unless he will declare clearly his intention to oppose the Chamberlain policy with all his strength, will he begin to respect them. From such respect will come, not further alienation, but the possibility of reconstructing the Unionist party on a Free-trade basis.