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“One-sided free trade” was being denounced, not unnaturally; but Lord Iddesleigh had never any confidence in the talk about reciprocity. The reciprocity that was wanted was what could not be got, he said, and what could be got was not reciprocity. Still, the Conservatives were expected to do something, and they could, and did, appoint a Commission. Lord Iddesleigh was not ill pleased to be at its head. He saw that all the remedies put forward were more or less modified forms of protection. He foresaw that the Commission, or the majority of it, would find that the depression had been exaggerated, and that the results of the inquiry would, in the long-run, be favourable to free trade. He did the work with his usual energy and conscientiousness. long and even laborious, ending much as he had expected. The report of the majority, drawn up by Lord Iddesleigh but issued after his death, found that trade, since 1875, might fairly be called depressed. There was a diminution of profit and of employment. This was caused by over-production, by "appreciation of gold, by restrictive foreign tariffs, by foreign competition in all markets, and, among other things, by our defective education, both technical and financial. The civilised nations, in short, are now engaged, as never before, in a struggle for existence. England was the first earnestly industrial people: for long we had a kind of monopoly of trade. But in the last forty years most of Europe has taken to making things to sell. It is not so much that we make things worse than we did, as that every one 1886.]
REPORT OF COMMISSION.
can make them as well, and often more cheaply. The struggle for the cheap produces cheapness, and that is depression, or part of it. There is, to be sure, the consolation that the poor can get more for their money; no great comfort when, for want of employment, they have no money. The state of agriculture is notorious. James Caird estimates the loss in the purchasing power of the classes engaged in agriculture at £42,800,000 during the year 1885," a calculation which means incalculable misery and peril. The majority did not think that legislative restrictions on labour, and that strikes, had“ materially affected the general prosperity of the country.” They did not believe in longer hours of work as a remedy, and “feel satisfied that public opinion in this country would not accept any legislative measure tending to an increase in the present hours of labour.” Legislation is likely to be in the contrary direction. They believed that the condition of the working classes had been immensely improved in the last twenty years: the share of labour in wealth was greater than it had been. But there would come a time, as profits fell and wages rose, when capital would be driven out of the field. What would happen then, the Commission did not prophesy. They did not blame, but rather praised, the trades-unions. They admitted, as well they might, that “the number of the unemployed is a matter of serious importance.” They thought agriculture must be depressed “until the competition of soils superior to our own has been worked out.” Profits would fall, till there was some correspond
ing expansion of trade, or "some destruction of wealth,
, such as is caused by a great war." We might seek new markets, and adapt our wares more to wants, and educate more, both technically and in the knowledge of foreign languages. They thought they were “ encouraging a more hopeful view”; indeed, a minority of the Commission regarded theirs as too optimistic, and yet one thinks they had
“Close-lipped Patience for their only friend,
“If our position is to be maintained, it must be by the exercise of the same energy, perseverance, self-restraint, and readiness of resource by which it was originally created.” Professor Bonamy Price, in the name of free trade, protested that “shorter hours of labour tax the community with dearer goods in order to confer special advantages on the working man. They protect him, and that is a direct repudiation of free trade.” The class in power has usually managed to protect itself. The Commission, as was to be expected, did little to lighten the burden of the world, and produced no scheme for giving all profits to labour. We have still to see how that plan will work. Meanwhile, this was the last heavy piece of official work which Lord Iddesleigh did, except at the Foreign Office, which he held from the end of July 1886 till Lord Salisbury took it. Among the "pantomimic changes” of his brief tenure of office, the most amazing was the kidnapping (August 21) of Prince Alexander of Bulgaria. But a brief reply to questions in the
LORD RANDOLPH'S RESIGNATION.
House of Lords was Lord Iddesleigh's only public remark on this occasion. His heavy work, on which, of course, it is not possible to comment here, was deeply interesting and even refreshing to him. He went up to town from Pynes at the very end of December 1886. Lord Randolph Churchill had resigned the Chancellorship of the Exchequer on December 23, from "a little temper on both sides,” Lord Iddesleigh supposed (letter to Lady Iddesleigh, December 28, 1886). His own resignation followed shortly, in circumstances which shall be stated as shortly as possible.
On the sudden and unexpected withdrawal of Lord Randolph Churchill, Lord Salisbury entered into negotiations with Lord Hartington and the Liberal Unionists. Lord Iddesleigh, with his wonted unselfishness, placed his seat in the Cabinet at the Premier's disposal. On Tuesday morning the 4th of January he learned from an announcement in the newspapers that his offer had been accepted, and a telegram in cipher from Lord Salisbury reached Pynes in the afternoon of the same day. Mr Goschen had joined the Government, and in the course of the new combination Lord Salisbury found it desirable to go to the Foreign Office, Mr Smith giving up the War Office to become First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Commons. A letter to the same effect was received on the next morning. Lord Iddesleigh replied that he cheerfully accepted Lord Salisbury's decision. No proposal of another post had been made to him, and he regarded the transaction as completed. He then
received a telegram, offering him the Presidency of the Council. Not being anxious “to have more political bother,” immediately after resigning duties in which he was interested, he declined, and continued to decline after receiving "a kind letter from Lord Salisbury.” To have accepted would have been to suggest various obvious misconstructions of his position, powers, and character. He hoped to be better able to serve his party outside than in a new office.
It is not correct to state, as was stated at the time, that Lord Iddesleigh's resignation was due to a consciousness of failing health. His old enemy, an affection of the heart, of thirty-six years' standing, was present with him; but the work he had done in the last two years had not brought it, as yet, prominently into his own notice. We have seen how busy he had been with speaking in many distant places, and in his canvassing tour in 1885 he often addressed large audiences in the open air and even in the rain. His work at the Commission on Trade kept him in town in 1885, till his visit to Balmoral, whence he went to speak at Aberdeen. He spoke later at various places, and his lecture at Edinburgh on Desultory Reading (November 3) certainly gave no sign of failing power in body or mind. The year 1886 found him speaking at many public meeetings, and a brief visit to Balmoral was almost his only holiday. He wound up the Trade Commission on December 8, and, as we saw, was busy in town at the end of that month. It was not