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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (Dec. 25, 1903)
WILLIAH J. BRYAN, EDITOR AND PROPRIETOR.
Vol. 3. No. 49.
Lincoln, Nebraska, December 25, 1903.
Whole No. 153.
The Tariff Debate
CCopyrighfc by New York Journal, 1903.)
An American feels at home In England just
now for ho constantly reads in the newspapers
and hears on the streets the tarjff arguments so
familiar in the United States. I can almost im
agine myself in the midst of a presidential cam
paign, with import duties as the only issue. I
have been especially fortunate in arriving hero at
the very height of the discussion and I have been
privileged to hear the best speakers on both
sides. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, lately secretary
for the colonies, left the cabinet some three
months ago in order to present to the country
the tariff policy which he believed to be neces
sary. Not desiring to make the government re
sponsible for the proposition put forth by him ho
turned his official duties over to another and has
been conducting one of the most remarkable cam
paigns that England has seen in recent years.
He enters the light with a number of things
to his credit. Heis a great orator, he is pleasing
in manner, experienced in debate, skillful in the
arraignment of his adversaries, and possesses the
faculty of so holding the attention of his hearers
as to make them eager to catch the next sen
tence. He is not an impassioned speaker, he has
no grand climaxes that overwhelm an audience,
but he does have what his friends call a "re
strained eloquence" that leaves the impression he
never quite reaches the limit of his powers. Ho
is a man who would rank high in any land and
as an antagonist he would not fear to meet the
best on. any platform.
He is about five feot nine or ten inches in
height and weighs about 175 pounds. He wears
no beard and Is impressive in appearance. The
cartoonists take liberties with him as with other
public men in drawings of him, and I may say
in passing that there are some newspaper car
toonists over here who do excellent work.
Mr. Chamberlain is urging a departure from
the free trade policy which England has followed
for fifty years, and he defends his position on
First That It is needed for the protection 01
English manufacturers and English laborers.
Second That it is necessary for the defense
and strengthening of the empire.
Third That a tariff can be used when neces
sary as a retaliatory weapon to make a breach in
the tariff walls that other nations have created.
In presenting the first proposition ho employs
the usual protectionist arguments. He appeals
to particular industries and promises better wages
to labor and more constant employment. He com
plains that foreign products are being "dumped"
in England. The foreigner is accused of selling
his surplus wares here without profit or below cost
while he sells for enough at home to enable him
to. carry on his business.
I heard Mr. Chamberlain's speech at Cardiff,
the chief city of "Wales. It was an audience large
ly made up of wage-earners, and his appeals were
adroit and elicited an enthusiastic response. He
dwelt at length on the tin industry; figured the
growth of the industry from 1882 to 1892 and
showed that during the next decade the tin in
dustry had suffered by the establishment of tin
plate mills in the United States.
He assumed that if the English government
had been authorized to make reciprocal treaties
it might have persuaded the United States to fore
go the protection of tin plate in exchange for trade
advantages In some other direction. ,He esti
mated the lbss that had come to Welsh workmen
because of the lessened demand for their tin
plate and he contended that it was necessary to
give preferential treatment to the colonies in or
der to increase or even to hold their attachment
to the empire.
In discussing retaliation he seemed to assume
what the protectionists of the United States have
often declared, namely, that the foreigner pays
the tax; and his argument was that England ought
to tax the' goods coming in from other countries
if other countries taxed goods imported from
England. Ho has coined phrases that are going
the rounds of tho press, the most popular of
which is embodied in tho question, "If another na
tion strikes you with a tariff tax, are you going to
take it lying down?" Tbis phrase aroused a
spirit of pugnacity at Cardiff and was enthusias
In presenting tho claims of tho empire, Mr.
Chamberlain occupies much tho same position as
tho American protectionist who contends that a
tariff wall makes our own country Independent of
other nations. In presenting this argument tho
late colonial secretary has tho advantage of tho
great popularity which ho won during tho South
'African war, and tho spirit of empire is just now
quito strong in England.
So much for tho leader of tho tariff reform
movement, for strange as it may seem tho En
glish crusade for tho adoption of a tariff Is be
ing conducted through tho Tariff Reform Leaguo,
which, with Mr. Chamberlain's indorsement, is
asking for a campaign fund of $500,000.
On tho other sido are, first, tho conservatism
that supports the settled policy of half a century;
cocond, tho political and economic arguments
which weigh against a protective tariff, and, third,
the ability and personal influence of tho men who
are arrayed against Mr. Chamberlain. I havo at
tended a number of meetings of tho oppositon.
To north, to south, to west, to eait,
To all beyond and m between;
To old and young, to greatest, least,
Where ray of Christmas sun is seen,
This message send wo, ringing clear:
"Merry Chkistmas; a Glad New Year!
To thoso who strive for better things,
To all who others' burdens share;
To hearts aweary that yet sing,
To struggling mankind ev'ry where
Go forth this message of good cheer:
"Merry Christmas; a'Glad New Year!"
Will M. MAuriN.
The first was at St. Neots, Huntlngtonshire, where
I heard Mr. H. H. Asquith, one of the liberal lead
ers in parliament. He is of about the same
height as Mr. Chamberlain, but heavier, his face
and shoulders being considerably broader. Mr.
Asquith differs very materially from Mr. Cham
berlain in his style of oratory, but Is a master in
his line. His Is more the argument of the law
yer. He Is more logical and a closer reasoner.
He is regarded as one of the ablest public men
in England, and after listening to him for an
hour I could easily believe his reputation to be
Whilo he discussed with thoroughness all
phases of the fiscal question, I was most im
pressed with his reply to what may be called
the Imperial part of Mr. Chamberlain's argument.
He insisted that preferential duties would weaken
instead of strengthen the bonds that unite En
gland to her colonies because partiality would not
be shown to one industry without discrimination
against the other industries, and he warned the
advocates of protection not to divide the people
of the colonies and the people of the home coun
try into warring factions and suggested that
when these factions were arrayed against each
other in a contest for legislative advantage, the
harmony of tho nation would bo disturbed and
ill-will botweon tho various sections, element
and industries engendered.
At a Iioubo dinner of tho National Liberal
club In London I heard another mornbor of par
liament, Mr. It. S. Robson, a liberal, who took
retaliation for" his subject. Mr. Ilobson prosontcd
a clear, comprehensive and concise analysis of
tho policy of retaliation; tho strongest points
made by him being, first, that retaliation meant
commercial war, and, second, that It contemplated
a pormanent policy of protection. Ho pointed
out that no country had over aimed a retaliatory
tariff at England; that tariffs In other countries
wero laid for domestic purposes and, not out of
antagonism to another country. Ho contended
that other countries Instead of modifying their
tariffs becauso of attempted retaliation on tho
part of England would bo raoro likely excited to
an unfriendliness which they had not beforo
shown, and that if England woro tho aggressor
In such a tariff war she must necessarily bo a
largo losor. Ho said that it was impossible to
conceive of concessions being secured by a threat
to raise a tariff wall In England. It would be
necessary, ho contended, If a retaliatory policy
was undertaken to first Impose a high tariff all
around and then offer to reduce it In special cases.
This would bo a radical doparturo from tho policy
of freo trade and would bring with it all the
evils that had led to tho abandonment of a pro
tective policy under tho leadership of Cobden.
Besides tho liberal opposition, Mr. Chamber
lain has to meet tho antagonism of a number of
influential leaders who would Indorse Mr. Balfour
if ho only proposed retaliation iri a particular
caso where thoro had bcon an open and grievous
blow struck at England, but who aro not willing
to join Mr. Chamberlain in advocating a return
to a protective policy.
I attended a great meeting held -under tho
auspices of tho Free Food Leaguo and heard
speeches delivered by tho Duke of Devonshire and
Lord Goshon. I was told that the duke was tho
only English statesman who ever took a nap
during tho progress of his own speech. Thus fore
warned, I was prepared for a season of rest, but
tho duke curprlBed his friends (and they aro
many) on this occasion and his speech has been
tho talk of tho country since it was delivered.
If was a powerful arraignment of the proposed
tax on food, and taking into consideration the
high standing and great prestige of tho duko,
will exert a widespread Influence on the decision
of the controversy. The duke Ib a tall, strongly
built man, with a long head and full sandy beard
sprinkled with gray. Ho speaks with delibera
tion and emphasis, but lacks tho graces of the
other orators whom I had an opportunity to hear.
If, however, caso and graco wero wanting, the
tremendous effectiveness of tho pile driver and
tho battering ram make up for them.
Ho denounced tho proposition to put a tax
upon tho people's food as a blow to the welfare
and greatness of the nation. He scouted the idea
that the tax would not ultimately extend to all
food or that it would not raise tho price of food
and showed that the increase in the cost of food
and clothing would take from tho laboring man
any advantage which Mr. Chamberlain promised
to bring by his protective policy.
At tho Free Food meeting the duke was fol
lowed by Lord Goshen, a conspicuous leader of
tho unionist party. Though now about seventy
years old, he possesses great vitality and entered
into the discussion with an earnestness that bo
speaks the extraordinary power of the man. In
appearance he reminded me of Gladstone and of
Paul Kruger. I should say that his face had
some of the characteristics of both rugged Ifi
its outlines and giving an impression of courage
and strength combined with great intellect Ha
replied to Mr. Chamberlain's challenge, "Will you
take it lying down?" with the question, "Will you
hido behind a wall?" He denied that it was neo-
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