Article analysis: the edwardian crisis. use of his astute political maneuvering that gave him a strength among the constituencies that was almost, but not quite, matched by the influential ex-ministers that formed his opposition within the party. In addition, Fraser indicates it was Chamberlain’s inability to keep the strife that existed within the party a secret that led to a disagreement between himself and Balfour that was to last until Chamberlain’s sudden illness and subsequent paralysis that forced him out of the public sphere. The standoff finally came in February of 1906 when Balfour and Chamberlain, unable to come to an agreement regarding what would be discussed at an upcoming Unionist meeting being held on Chamberlain’s insistence, agreed to publish their differences in what has become known as the Valentine Letters. Although Chamberlain’s adherents proclaimed victory for tariff reform, the letters actually gave no quarter and firmly established Balfour as the winner of the contest. However, the division that had been sown to this point served to provide both an inner distraction from greater elections and to weaken the party from inside.
One of the chief arguments brought forward by Fraser is that the question over the tariff reform within the Unionist party was not necessarily being fought over whether a general tariff was appropriate or not. Instead, he claims it was being fought more on the grounds of whether it was an appropriate time to make this a prime issue within the party. Although free trade versus tariff reform was certainly a hot issue within the party, Balfour’s main contention against it remained that it was not worth pulling the party apart from within in order to push the issue at that time. Instead, Balfour adhered to a personal policy of ‘cohesion’ that kept both sides from openly committing warfare on each other.