April 19, 1904.
NOTHING could have been less propitious than the circumstances in which the new Chancellor of the Exchequer approached his task. The reconstruction of the Government in the preceding autumn had had no effect in healing the dissensions of the Unionist party; and the Prime Minister's efforts to hold the balance only provoked fresh attacks not only within its ranks but also from the official opposition, which took shape in an amendment moved by Mr. John Morley to the address at the opening of the session. The financial outlook was not encouraging. A wave of trade depression had set in; it was clear that Mr. Ritchie's anticipations had been far too sanguine, and that a deficit would have to be faced. Finally, Mr. Austen Chamberlain's position, in view of the fiscal controversy and the attitude taken up by Mr. Balfour towards it, was delicate in the extreme. It is sufficient to say here that Mr. Chamberlain proved fully equal to the difficult situation in which he found himself, and that his short reign at the Treasury gave him the reputation of a careful and resourceful steward of the national resources.
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