protection who did not consider free trade as the ultimate objective point in all tariff legislation. I do not know any man of any intellectual standing, in public or in private life, who does not now look upon free trade as the true objective point of all tariff legislation. All sensible men hold that there are existing conditions which make it inconsistent with the public welfare to adopt revolutionary free-trade measures at the present time; but they all accept the fundamental principle, provided certain conditions precedent can be established in a safe and proper way.
The difference among intelligent men at the present time is only as to the time when it may be suitable to begin tariff reform in this direction, and upon the method of such reform. So it has always been. It is only the first step that costs. Gladstone once said, doubtless recalling his own experience and change of views, "The road to free trade is like the way to virtue, the first step the most painful, the last the most profitable."
The conditions which now obtain in this. country correspond very closely to those which existed in Great Britain in 1842, at the time when Sir Robert Peel was compelled to modify and ultimately to change all his previous conceptions upon this subject, and to become the leader in the great reform of the British tariff which ended in the present system, sometimes called that of British free trade. This system is not free trade in an abstract or in an absolute sense, because Great Britain raises a large revenue from duties upon foreign imports, and will probably be compelled to do so for very many generations in order to sustain the burden of her great debt. We shall also be compelled to raise a large part of our revenue from duties upon imports, for one generation; but I will presently prove that our advantage in conditions is so great that it may enable us within even less than one generation to adopt absolute free trade if it shall become expedient to do so, except so far as it may continue to be necessary to tax the import of spirits in order to maintain the revenue derived from an excise measure. Whether or not absolute free trade may be desirable or expedient, it will be time enough to determine when the opportunity is offered. What we have to deal with now is our present condition and not this theory, as President Cleveland so well put it.
In one of Sir Robert Peel's great speeches which he made long after he had entered upon this course, he spoke as follows, in explanation of his course at the beginning of the reform of the tariff:
"I stated, and I am ready to repeat that statement, that if we had to deal with a new society in which those intricate and complicated interests which grow up under institutions like those in the midst of which we live, had found no existence, the true abstract principle would be to buy in the cheapest market and to sell