Liberals hoped and believed that this promise of support for the “rebellious” attitude of Ulster would alienate British opinion from the Unionist party. The supporters of the Government in the Press daily proclaimed that it was doing so. When Parliament adjourned for the summer recess, at the beginning of what journalists call “the silly season,” Mr. Churchill published two letters to a constituent in Scotland which were intended to be a crushing indictment both of Ulster and of her sympathisers in Great Britain. The Ulster menace was in his eyes nothing but “melodramatic stuff,” and he sneeringly suggested that the Unionist leaders would be “unspeakably shocked and frightened” if anything came of their “foolish and wicked words.” The letter was lengthy, and contained some telling phrases such as Mr. Churchill has always been skilful in coining; but the “turgid homily—a mixture of sophistry, insult, and menace,” as The Times not unfairly described it, was less effective than the terse and simple rejoinder in which Mr. Bonar Law pointed out that Mr. Churchill’s onslaught wounded his father’s memory more deeply than it touched his living opponents, since Lord Randolph’s “incitement” of Ulster was at a time when Ulster could not be cast out from the Union without the consent of the British electors.
Mr. Churchill’s epistles to Scottish Liberals started a correspondence which reverberated through the Press for weeks, breaking the monotony of the holiday season; but they entirely failed in their purpose, which was to break the sympathy for Ulster in England and Scotland. In March the Unionists had won a seat at a by-election in South Manchester; the victory at Crewe in July, which so cheered the gathering at Blenheim, was followed by still more striking victories in North-west Manchester in August, and in Midlothian—Gladstone’s old constituency—in September; and perhaps a not less significant indication of the trend of opinion so far as the Unionist party was concerned, was given by the local Unionist Association at Rochdale, which promptly repudiated its selected candidate who had ventured to protest against the Blenheim speech of the Unionist leader. In an analysis of electoral statistics published by The Times on the 24th of August it was shown that, in thirty-eight contests since the General Election in December 1910, the Unionists had gained an advantage of more than 32,000 votes over Liberals. And shortly afterwards, at a dinner in London to three newly elected Unionists, Mr. Bonar Law pointed out that the results of by-elections, if realised in the same proportion all over the country, would have given a substantial Unionist majority in the House of Commons.