WSC 1904

On the night of February 19, 1904, Winston Churchill, still a Conservative member of parliament, spoke in a spirited defense of free trade to an enthusiastic audience at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. In the speech, which was held under the auspices of the Free Trade League, Churchill told the crowded hall that they were gathered to discuss a “momentous question,” whether the Free Trade Hall should be called by another name and whether the statue of Sir Robert Peel should be pulled down and replaced by one of Sir Howard Vincent. While the free traders had won the recent debates in the House of Commons and the Balfour government had pushed Joe Chamberlain and his policy of protection “overboard,” Churchill said he did not trust the honesty of the government on the issue. It was time he said for the government to declare a policy of free trade. Churchill declared that, “Free traders might differ among themselves about how far, how fast, and in what direction they were to move forward, but in one thing they were agreed – they would not go back, not one inch. The speech lasted more than one and a half hours and The Times called it, “one of the most powerful and brilliant he has made.”

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