It was not unnatural that the same thought came to many minds in the United States at once. “If we had free trade, we could bring Canada’s raw products in and build up our factories here instead of in Canada,” was the gist of the manufacturer’s argument. “If we had free trade, it would reduce the cost of living,” was the gist of the city consumer’s argument. Canadian lumber, Canadian meat, Canadian wheat could be brought across and manufactured on the American side. For the first time the American manufacturer became a free trader. Practically there was only one section in the United States opposed to reciprocity with Canada; that was the American farmer, and his opposition was more negative than positive.
It is hard to say who voiced the desire for reciprocity first. Possibly the buyers of print paper. At all events, there was at Ottawa a Governor-General of the Manchester School of Free Trade. There was editing the Toronto Globe—the main Liberal organ—a worthy successor of George Brown as an exponent of the Manchester School of Free Trade. Shortly after this editor—a man of brilliant forceful character—had met President Taft and Joe Cannon in Washington, the Governor-General of Canada was the guest of Governor Hughes at Albany and there met President Taft. Of the old guard of free traders, there were still a few in Laurier’s Cabinet, and Laurier himself was as profoundly and sincerely a free trader in power as he had been out of office. Enemies aver that the Laurier government now launched reciprocity to divert public attention from criticism of the railroad policy, in which there had undoubtedly been great incompetency and gross extravagance—an extravagance more of a recklessly prosperous era than of dishonesty—but this motive can hardly be accepted. If Laurier had launched reciprocity as a political dodge, he would have sounded public opinion and learned that it was no longer with him on tariff concessions; but because he was absolutely sincere in his belief in the Cobden-Bright Gospel of Free Trade, he rode for a second time to a humiliating fall. A trimmer would have sounded public opinion and pretended to lead it while really following. Laurier believed he was right and launched out on that belief.
There was probably never at any time a more conspicuous example of politicians mistaking a rear lantern for a headlight. I had come East from a six months’ tour of the northwestern states and Northwestern Canada. I chanced to meet a magazine editor who for twenty years had been the closest exponent of Republican politics in New York. The Canadian elections were to be held that very day. In Canada a party does not launch a new policy like reciprocity without going to the country for the electorate’s approval or condemnation. The editor asked me if I would mind reading over a ten-page advance editorial congratulating