CHURCHILL OUT OF HIBERNATION, WEEK 11
Our stroll through the works of Winston Churchill carries us back into the realm of the rarest of Churchill rarities: FOR FREE TRADE, a companion piece to MR. BRODRICK’s ARMY. Together, these two constitute the Holy Grail of Churchill book collecting.
And yes, we do have one.
In 1904 Winston Churchill “crossed the floor of the House” and joined the Liberal Party, splitting with his late-father’s Conservative Party colleagues over an issue that he had been indoctrinated in by Lord Randolph since childhood: Unyielding support for free trade.
The Tories would never forgive Churchill for his desertion, which was audacious, yet quite sincere and, in fact, dangerously disingenuous politically. Yes, the Liberal Party was in ascendance in 1904, but turncoats are never popular. Political ambition was hardly Churchill’s primary motivation. His evolving views about the poor in Great Britain and the need for a social safety net fit better with the Liberals. And he absolutely detested tarrifs.
Two years later, during the 1906 General Election, Churchill published a small collection of nine speeches he had delivered in his Manchester constituency and on the floor of the House of Commons advocating “For Free Trade.”
Again Churchill’s publisher — as with his earlier speech collection, Mr. Brodrick’s Army — was Arthur L. Humphreys, General Manager of Hatchards, the venerable London bookshop that still stands at number 187 Piccadilly. Identical to Brodrick, the 136-page For Free Trade was bound in bright red soft covers that resembled a paperback, in an age well before paperbacks.
The print run for For Free Trade is unknown. What is certain is that the acidic paper stock did not age well. No more than 15-20 copies are accounted for today. The book remains the stuff of collectors’ dreams and may, in fact, be scarcer than Mr. Brodrick’s Army. Yet, we proudly possess one. Unlike most of the surviving copies, which have been rebound due to their deteriorating condition, our copy is as-issued, in the original red covers. It is virtually one of a kind.
We wish you continued health and safety as precious as any one-of-a-kind rarity.