London: The Liberal Publication Department (in connection with the National Liberal Federation and the Liberal Central Association), 1904. First edition. Paperback. This rare 1904 leaflet publishes Winston S. Churchill’s letter in opposition to the Aliens Bill. Churchill's letter of 30 May 1904 was printed in the Manchester Guardian and published soon after by the Liberal Publication Department as this single-sheet, double-sided "Leaflet No. 2006" measuring 8 x 5.25 inches.
The fight against the Aliens Bill was an important one for Churchill - providing opportunity for his first speech from the Liberal Opposition benches, burnishing his Liberal credentials as a champion of the disenfranchised, and ultimately scoring a political victory against the Conservative Party he had so recently abandoned when the Aliens Bill was defeated.
This treatment of this copy is a curiosity. Condition is fine, bright and clean with no reportable loss, wear or soiling. However a previous owner decided to house it in a chrome yellow sheet of paper folded to form a card, complete with a poorly printed paper label affixed to the makeshift front cover. The leaflet is tipped into this card, glued only along the left edge of the leaflet. Although it is likely removable, we have not made the attempt and have priced this copy in view of how it is housed.
The Aliens Bill of 1904 was a thinly disguised effort at anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant electioneering by the Conservative British Government. "A series of pogroms in Tsarist Russia over the previous twenty-five years had brought to England a large and increasing number of Jews, most of them poor, ill-educated and unskilled." (Gilbert, Vol, II, p.81) The Aliens Bill proposed giving the Home Secretary considerable powers of discretion and control in order to check the number of aliens.
The young Churchill left his father's Conservative Party and crossed the aisle to become a Liberal in late May of 1904, earning a reputation as both a brash young radical and a traitor to his class. Churchill took a strong stand against the bill with the commanding mix of withering rhetoric and logical deconstruction that would become his trademark: "To judge by the talk there has been, one would have imagined we were being overrun by the swarming invasion and 'ousted' from our island." And yet "all the aliens of Great Britain do not amount to a one-hundred-and-fortieth part of the total population." (Letter of 30 May 1904, Vol. II, p.82)
Churchill took the bill to task for being both unworkable in application and unjust in intent: "The simple immigrant, the political refugee, the helpless and the poor - these are the folk who will be caught in the trammels of the bill." And before appealing to the better nature of "English working men" Churchill clearly stated the political impetus and cultural prejudice underpinning the Aliens Bill: "It is expected to appeal to insular prejudice against foreigners, to racial prejudice against Jews, and to Labour prejudice against competition; and it will no doubt supply a variety of rhetorical phrases for the approaching election."
Procedural debate about the Bill in June gave Churchill the opportunity to make his first speech from the Opposition benches. Serving on the Committee tasked with the Bill, Churchill took every opportunity to attack. The Government abandoned the Bill on July 7.
Reference: Cohen A13, Woods A7. Item #006175