It involves a series of alternatives beginning with Protection, pure and simple, and descending by Retaliation and Reciprocity and the most-favoured-nation treatment to Free Trade.
I do not propose to contrast and discuss the respective merits of these alternatives en bloc, but only incidentally to deal with them in reference to the three great countries—France, Germany and the United States—with which we do the bulk of our international business.
Our treaty relations with France I have already described. In 1877, when Sir Louis Mallet was in Paris negotiating the renewal of the Treaty of 1860, I followed, as then economic correspondent of the Times, the vicissitudes of the efforts made on both sides to bring about an understanding. There was no question that if at that time we had had a tariff, and been in a position to grant reductions, we should have been able to obtain reductions. Sir Louis Mallet was of this opinion, but I well remember his adding that the advantage we should have had from the point of view of negotiation would have entailed the sacrifice of a system under which this country had flourished, and that British statesmen of both parties considered the blessing of cheap food and clothing for the masses as out of all proportion of greater moment to the country as a whole, than reductions of duty in a foreign market which other countries had better means of negotiating than we. Events have shown the truth of this anticipation, and we have the full benefit of the lowest tariff her neighbours, with all their Customs house artillery, have been able to wrest from France.
Still, the position of being dependent upon an Act of Parliament for the application of the most-favoured-nation clause, is not satisfactory, and the sooner negotiations are opened with France for placing Anglo-French business on a more stable footing, the better it will be for the