Page:The World's Famous Orations Volume 5.djvu/245

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ASQUITH

preferential tariff we must look for a break-up of the Empire. That is a pure assumption that we are asked to accept and act upon without a shadow of proof or even a scintilla of evidence. For my part, I believe it to be — I use very plain language about it — I believe it to be a calumny on the Colonies and a slur upon the Empire. Now, it is part of Mr. Chamberlain's case under this head that our trade with our own Colonies is growing faster than our trade with the rest of the world. That is a very disputable proposi- tion; but assuming, for the purpose of the ar- gument, that it is true, we are all agreed in wish- ing that process to continue. If natural causes are already at work bringing it into operation, so much the better. But, anxious as we are to do all that is prudent and practicable to develop our trade with the Colonies, we free-traders do not believe, at least I do not believe, it is in any way desirable that we should have what is called a self-contained Empire between which and the rest of the world there are none of those com- mercial relations which are so fruitful of peace and amity and good will.

But quite apart from that, let me deal with this allegation: that unless something is done — and that something means taxing the food of the people of this country — unless something is done the Colonics will break away from us. No one has a higher and keener desire than I have to maintain and develop those friendly relations which of late years have so happily come into

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