To the Electors of the Border Burghs

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

To the Electors of the Border Burghs is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Border Telegraph on 9 january 1906.

To the Electors of the Border Burghs

Gentlemen, — I claim your support mainly upon the Fiscal question, which I put in the forefront because I consider it far more important than any purely political question. We give free imports to all the world, and are flooded with manufactured articles which should be made by our own workers, while all round us the tariff walls of our neighbours grow higher and more impassable. By a small tariff we will certainly do one of two things — either preserve our own home market, or else be able to bargain that foreign nations give us better terms. Whichever we do must bring greater prosperity both to manufacturers and to workmen, for the success of the one means better times for the other. To no industry in Great Britain does this apply more than to the woollen trade, which is the staple manufacture of the Border Burghs.

I am in favour also of acceding to the unanimous suggestion of all the Colonial Premiers as expressed at the London Conference of 1902, to the effect that preference should be given in matters of trade throughout the Empire. I believe that no further argument is needed for this policy than the fact that the present improved outlook in trade, especially in the woollen industry, is the visible first fruit of a preferential policy. The preferences now granted by British Colonies have proved of great value to our trade, but it is certain that they will not continue to grant them if we show no desire to reciprocate. I am in favour, therefore, of taking the tax as far as possible off those food stuffs which we do not ourselves produce and putting it on the foreign imports of those food stuffs which we do produce. By this rational readjustment of taxation both our Colonies and our own farmers will derive some benefit, while the rest of the community will in no way be the worse, but will have the benefit of the increased trade due to the Colonial preference for our manufactures.

I am in favour of a special taxation of objects of luxury. I consider it a scandal that diamonds, motor cars, velvets and silks should come free into the country, while the necessities of the poor man are heavily taxed.

The Irish question is before us once more. My views upon it are the same as in Central Edinburgh in 1900. Since that date the events in Norway and Hungary have given us a fresh object lesson in the danger of two parliaments within one realm. I will never consent to a separate legislature for Ireland. At the same time I am strongly in favour of every meliorative measure short of Home Rule which can improve the relations between the two countries, I believe that the present Unionist policy of planting the people upon their own acres is a wise one, and that in conjunction with the discouragement of foreign agricultural imports, by which the Irish farmer will for the first time derive some benefit from his connection with Great Britain, it will go far to build up a more friendly and cordial feeling. I am also in favour of meeting the wishes of the majority of the Irish people in the matter of a Catholic University. I believe such a course to be just and expedient — just because Irish money should be used so far as possible as the majority of Irishmen desire, whether we agree with their point of view or not, and expedient because every fresh grievance removed weakens the agitation for that Home Rule which it is against our national interests to grant. Home Rule itself would, I am convinced, be even more hurtful to Ireland than to Great Britain.

As a Liberal I am in favour of complete religious equality. I recognise, however, that great historic institutions, such as the Churches of Scotland and of England should not be disestablished as a side issue, and I should not support any legislation of the sort until the question had been definitely brought before the public in a fresh election.

I am in favour of universal adult suffrage for men and the franchise for those women who contribute directly to Imperial taxation. To deny the latter is taxation without representation.

I am against any fresh taxation of agricultural land, since this is already the most depressed as well as the most important of our industries. It is illogical to talk of adding fresh burdens to it and yet of settling people upon it. In the case of town lands, however, where an increased value has been given by the growth of the town, I think that it is just that the landowner, on the renewal of leases at a higher figure, should contribute a portion of his profit to the municipality in which the land is. This reform applies to England rather than Scotland, but in Scotland I favour the taxation of land held back from building for speculative purposes.

In temperance legislation I believe in local control with a provision for just compensation for the dispossessed publican.

On all other points I shall, as occasion serves, convey my views to the electors, but I would again impress upon them in conclusion that no question of party politics can be so intimate or so pressing as that great trade question which must determine the prosperity of these burghs and the well-being of the inhabitants, as well as the comparative position of our country among the nations of the world.

Undershaw, Hindhead, Surrey, December 27th, 1905