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From Gladstone to Lloyd George; Parliament in peace and war online

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Parliament i7i Peace and War



Author of "Joseph Chamberlain: An Honest Biography"

All I can say is— I saw it.^




In view of recent changes in the composition and
character of ParUament, I hope some interest may
be taken in the recollections and impressions of
a journalist who has for many years observed the
House of Commons from the Press Gallery and
met its members in the Lobby. I have studied
all the statesmen who have played their part in
political life since Disraeli fought and lost his
last fight with his rival. I have seen the rise of
all the living leaders and the fall of more than half-
a-dozen Governments.

From the first of Gladstone's speeches which
I heard, in 1881, till his last from the Treasury
Bench, I was more or less under his oratorical
spell. Yet I was fascinated by the career of Mr.
Joseph Chamberlain who did so much to frustrate
his final ambition ; I was thrilled by the boldness
and brilliance of Lord Randolph Churchill whose
early decline was so lamentable ; I admired the
dexterity of Mr. Balfour as a leader and found
steady satisfaction in the sagacity of Lord Harting-
ton, afterwards Duke of Devonshire. '' C.B."
appealed to me by his courage and pawky humour ;
I have had abiding respect for Mr. Asquith's
talents and qualities ; I have followed with palpitat-
ing pulse the dazzling life of Mr. Lloyd George.
A catholic interest I the reader may say. Yes,


but a Cross -Bench temper is perhaps the best for
a reviewer of ParUament.

If there is no hero in this volume neither is there
a villain. " It is," Carlyle has said, " a much
shallower and more ignoble occupation to detect
faults than to discover beauties." I have not
gone out of my way at any rate to expose faults
with more prominence than accuracy demands,
although I have not overlooked the wart on the

" Examine your words well," wrote George
Eliot, " and you will find that even when you have
no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to
say the exact truth, even about your own immediate
feelings." A Parliamentary chronicler knows how
hard it is either to observe truly or to write truly.
All I claim is that I have endeavoured to write of
what I have seen and heard without unfair partiality
and without prejudice.

A. M.

June, 1921.




How THE War Found Parliament . . . .15

The Cry of Civil War — Constitutional Crisis — Political Passion
— The Supreme Call — Last Week of July, 1914 — Bank
Holiday — Scene in the House of Commons — Sir Edward Grey
— The Decision — Dramatic Episodes — " God Save the King "
— Sacred Union.

Behind the Speaker's Chair ..... 27

Our Tradition — Personal Relations of Political Opponents —
Public Difference and Private Friendship — Two Views, the
Tolerant and the Stern — Different Statesmen, Different
Temperaments — Modern Instances — Social Influences —
Parted Colleagues — Rules and Conventions — Leader of
Opposition — The Front Benches — The Old Order — The
New Conditions.

The Queen's Last Ministers ..... 40

Mb. Gladstone : A Personal Picture — Famous Orations —
Attitude Towards Other Members — Home Rule Speeches —
The Old Giant — On the Treasury Bench — Letter to Queen —
Verbosity and Ambigmty — Sources of Inflvience.

The Marquis op Salisbury : Disraeli's Exit — Choice of
Successor — Distrust of Salisbury — Leader of Conservative
Peers — Supreme Authority — " Blazing Indiscretions " —
Relations with Gladstone — Duels with Granville — Figure
and Speeches — Period of Power.

The Earl op Rosebery : Once a Peer, Always a Peer — Charm
— Brilliant Career — Coronetted Socialist — Prime Minister —
Party Dissensions and Personal Differences — A Dark Horse in
a Loose Box — Lonely Furrow — Clean Slate — Liberal
League — Friends in Office — The Orator — Cross Bench —




Three Dramatic Figures. ..... 65

Lord Randolph Chubchill : Fourth Party — Appearance and
Attacks — Anger of Liberals and Rebukes of Conservatives
— Popularity and Power — The New Man — Leadership —
The Fatal Resignation — Isolation — Glass of Water — Recon-
ciliation — Pathetic Close of Career.

Mr. Paenkll : A Strange Man — Defiance of Parliament — Its
Dread — Authority and Aloofness — Obstruction and Boy-
cotting — Alliance with Liberals — The Forged Letter —
Divorce Case and Deposition.

Mr. Joseph Chamberlain : Role in Political Drama — Alert
and Aggressive — Liberal Minister — " Daring Duckling " —
Jack Cade — " Lost Leader " — Antagonist of Home Rule
Liberals — Pre-eminence in Debat-e — The Xew Style — Duels
with Gladstone — A Bonnie Fighter — Unionist Minister —
On Both Sides — Final Propagandti — Last Visits to House.

Late Victorians ....... 87

Reminiscence — Democratic Gro\vth — The Greasy Pole.

Sib M. Hicks Beach : Type of Constitutional Statesman —
Magnanimous Act — "Black Michael" — Sharp Saj-ings —
Parliamentary Manner — A Glass of Port — Cautious Conser-
vative — Elder Statesman.

Mr. W. H. Smith : The Victorian Character — Business Man in
Politics — Lord Randolph's Gibe — Success as Leader — The
Xew Althorp — "Old Morality" — Faithful to Duty.

Sir William Harcourt : Suspected Opportunism — Dugald
Dalgetty — A New View — Services to Chief and Party —
" The Lesser Light " — Formidable ControversiaUst —
Friends Among Opponents — Disappointment — Leader of
House — Its Greatest Ornament — Resignation of Party
Leadership — The Last Stage.

Mr. Goschex : Great House of Commons Man — Liberal Career
— Opposition to Radical Chamberlain — " Skeleton at the
Egj-ptian Feast " — In Conservative Government — In Union-
ist Coalition — Conviction and Integrity — No " gamble with

The Marquis of Hartingtox : Offers of Prime Ministership —
Gladstone's Colleague — Brother's Murder — Political Bore-
dom — Home Rule — The Sleeper Aroused — Blows like " the
driving in of piles " — Relations with Old Chief — Opponents
on Same Bench — The Duke — Retirement from Government
— A Drag on Chamberlain's WTieel — Almost Last Survivor of
Heroic Age.



King Edward's Ministers 119

Exercise of Prerogative — Ministers of Twentieth Century.

Mr. Balfour : Wide Period of Career — Early Stages — Supposed
Trifler — Surprising Appointment — A Romance of Politics —
Front of Battle— Celebrity— Feet on Table— Golf— Parlia-
mentary Popularity — A Great Critic — Dislike of Political
Lawyers — Appearance and Habits — ' ' A child in these
matters " — Courage in Defeat — Resignation of Leadership —
Added Chapter of Life — Office in War Coalition.

Sib Henry Campbell-Bannebman : " C.B." — The Sand Bag
— Foxmd Salvation — Helpful Colleague — Cordite Division —
Seals Demanded — The New Butler — A Stop-Gap — The Boer
War — Position Established-^Manner and Speeches — Humour
— " C.B. Corsets " — Prime Ministership — Achievements —
Death at Downing Street.

The War Ministers . . . . . .142

Mr. Asqthth : Bagehot's Ideal — On Back Bench — A Famous
Cross-examination — Home Secretary — ' ' The Revival of
Civic Religion " — Reputation — Attitude in Opposition —
Liberal Imperialist — Manner in Debate — Chancellor of the
Exchequer — Prime Minister — Troubled Peace Time — One
of the Greatest Parliamentarians — Dexterity — Loyalty to
Colleagues — Parliamentary Orator — Spirit of Compromise —
Fairness in Argvmient — Stock of Phrases — The Great War —
Its Early Stage — The Coalition — Criticism — Decline of
Prestige — " Wait and See " — December, 1916 — Magnanimity
— Evil Tongues — Defeat — A Dark and Difficult Adventure —
— Return to Parliament — " Welcome Home ! "

Mr. Lloyd George : Genius — Maiden Speech — Early Inde-
pendence — Harcourt's Advice — Opposition to South African
War — Rebukes " C.B." — Mr. Balfour's Appreciation —
Corner Seat — What Will He Be ? — Place in Government —
Stormy Petrel — The Notorious Budget — Limehouse — Shock
to Conservative Classes — Social Programme — The Agadir
Incident — Land Campaign — Hooted in House — Hopes of
Adversaries — Oratorical Spell — Man of Action — War Con-
centration — Prime Minister — New Coalition — Picturesque
Appearance — Methods and Breakfasts — A Man with an Eye
— The New William Pitt. (Parliamentary triumph diuing
and after war described in later chapters.)



Other Men and Memories 178


The Gladstone Era

Shout of Battle — The Old World — Change of Reputations.

1880-1885 : John Bright — Justin McCarthy — W. E. Forster —
A Pall Mall Article — Gibe at Gladstone — Sir Charles Dilke —
Friendship with Chamberlain — Dilke Kisses Hands — His
Scatter-Brain Daj's — His Speeches — His Prospects — His
Fall — Subsequent Career — Sir George Trevel3^an — " Lord
Spencer and I " — Trevelyan's Vacillation on Home Rule —
\Miere His Heart Lay — Conservative Front Bench — Brad-
laugh — Fourth Party Drawing the Badger — ' ' Blank Cheque "
— Gladstone's Defeat in 1885.

1886-1895 : Conflict on Home Rule — A Memorable Year — A
Fateful Division — Bright's Letter — " The Brand of Cain " —
Parnell Dethroned — Gladstone's Last Fight — New Figures —
Mr. John Morlej' — Literature and Action — Training for
Office — Devotion to Home Rule — The Cromwell Statue —
Aloofness — Fisticuffs in House — Gladstone's Exit.


Other Men and Memories ..... 212


A New Era

1895-1905 : L^nionist Regime — Liberal Statesmen — Sir Edward
Grey — Growing Reputation — Character — Raid Inquiry —
Khaki Election — The Young Unionists — Lord Hugh Cecil —
A Rare Note — Mr. Churchill's Insubordination — " Randy
over again " — Crosses the Floor — A Portrait of Pitt — The
Young Liberals — l\Ir. Balfour at Bay.

1906-1914 : The Liberal Trivunph— New Labour Party-
Mr. Asquith's Colleagues — Morley a Peer — Grey's Qualities
and Speeches — Pushful Ministers — The Lords' Veto — Con-
stitutional Struggle — Two Elections — Mr. Asquith Silenced
— Lord Lansdowne — Scene in House of Lords — Last Act in
a Drama — Unionist Leadership — Mr. Walter Long — Mr.
Austen Chamberlain — Mr. Bonar Law — Speeches Without
Notes — A Fighting Leader — Parliamentary Maeliine in
Danger — Mr. Law and the Speaker.

The Ways of a Cabinet 244

Formation of Cabinet — Victorian Tradition — Its Mystery —
Downing Street — No. 10 — Its Atmosphere — Its Practice —



No Records — Lack of Precision — Cabinet Secrecy — Diana of
the Crossways — Women and Secrets — Ministers and the
Press — Cabinet and Crown — War Decisions — The Great War
— The 23 — Mr. Asquith's System — Mr. Lloyd George's
Experiment — Shock of the Qviidnuncs — Dinners and Break-
fasts — Large Cabinet Again — The Secretariat.

How Parliament Stood the Test .... 264

War Union — Decline of Confidence in Liberal Government —
Criticism — Supply of Mmiitions — Mr. Asquith's Denial —
Colonel Repington's Dispatch — The First Coalition — The
Front Benches — Mr. Chaplin — Renewal of Criticism — Attacks
on Mr. Asquith — " Cabals " — Sir Edward Carson — Mr.
Churchill — Depression and Distrust — The Press — Strange
and Swift Events — Mr. Asqmth's Resignation — Mr. Lloyd
George Sent For — The Second Coalition — " How long will it
last ? " — The New System — Aspect of the House — Essential
Unity — Revolution and Reform — Woman's Victory — The

War and Politicians ...... 285

The New Parliamentary Conditions — Pre-war Principles —
Versailles Coimcil — Lobby Crisis — Mr. Asquith's Criticism —
Mr. Lloyd George's Victory — Position Consolidated —
Historic Events — Lord Lansdowne's Letter — Mr. John
Redmond — German Offensive — Maiuice Division — Ita
Consequences — The Long Parhament — The Glorious Autumn
— The Armistice — Reception of Mr. Lloyd George — The
Great Deliverance — End of Union — General Election.


After the War 304

A Strange House — The Ri\'al Opposition — A New Epoch —
Troubles of Peace — Master of the House — A Grasshopper
— Mr. Lloyd George's Oratorical Triumph — His Supreme
Ascendancy — Treaty of Peace — National Anthem Again —
Parliament Asserts Itself — Great Changes — A Woman in the
House — Notable Figures — Lord Robert Cecil — Labour
Members — Independent Liberals — Mr. Asquith's Retiun —
Coalition Unaffected — Home Rule — The \N'hirlpool —
Unionist Personnel — A Shock — Mr. Lloyd George's
Celebrity— The End.



The first sign on the Parliamentary horizon of the
storm which was to shake the world, a little cloud
like a man's hand, appeared on the last Monday
of July, 1914. Twice or thrice in recent history
threatening signals had flashed across the sky, but
the alarm had passed without a crash and now
people intent on summer pleasures and autumn
holidays averted their eyes from the omen in the
East. They did not want to know about it ; they
did not admit it. But to the skilled watcher the
cloud gave warning of a terrible possibility. *' The
moment," said Sir Edward Grey on July 27, " the
dispute ceases to be one between Austro-Hungary
and Serbia and becomes one in which another
great Power is involved, it can but end in the
greatest catastrophe that has ever befallen the
Continent at one blow." A Navy debate fixed for
that Monday in the House of Commons was post-
poned. At such a moment, declared Mr. Walter
Long on behalf of the Opposition, there should be
but one voice in the House and the country.

Seldom in our history could the securing of
" one voice " have seemed more difficult. Only a
week earlier the Sovereign had stated at the
conference on the Irish problem that '' the cry of
civil war is on the lips of the most responsible and
sober-minded of my people." Seers gazing into the



future of the country had turned with horror, Uke
Allan M'Aulay in A Legend of Montrose, from the
vision which arose before their eyes.

Partisan contention had been sharp enough in
every generation. Occasionally it had blazed
into passion, dividing society and severing friends.
The struggle over the first Reform Bill, the quarrel
between Peelites and Protectionists, the duels
between Disraeli and Gladstone had excited emo-
tions which were sometimes virulent in expression,
and the seven years' contest over Gladstone's Irish
Home Rule policy had culminated in a physical
conflict on the floor of the House of Commons.
There were, however, in the national situation in
1914 features more ominous and menacing than
any since the cause of the Stuarts was lost.

King George succeeded to the throne at a con-
stitutional crisis, and even in the years of his reign
before the Great ^Var it might have been said that
uneasy lay the head which wore the crown. Classes,
parties, races, sexes were agitated by alarming
antagonisms. The demands of Labour and women,
the controversies which followed the Budget of
1909 and the holding of it up by the House of Lords,
the abolition of the veto of that House by an Act
carried under the threat of a wholesale creation of
peers, the attack on the land system, the forcing
forward of measures which were violently opposed,
the resistance of Ulster to a Parliament in Dublin :
these and other convulsions touched the most
sensitive nerves of the State.

There was in the political temper a greater
degree of venom even than Burke deplored in his
day. This was displayed in the House of Commons.
Intentional disorder prevented the Prime Minister
from making a statement in defence of advice he had


given to the Sovereign, protracted disturbances
were frequent, and after a defeat of the Government
Unionists tried to stop the ParUamentary machine
with the view to an appeal to the country. Allega-
tions of corruption, rare in modern annals, were
brought against ministers. For Mr. Asquith him-
self a violent fate on a lamp -post was predicted
in the event of blood being shed in Ulster.

Towards the precipice of civil war the country
plunged rapidly in 1914. Unionists cheered their
leader when he declared that if ever any people in
the history of the world had a right to resist by
force, the men of Ulster in refusing to submit to an
Irish Parliament would have that right ; Army
officers in the Irish Command accepted the option
to resign rather than risk the receipt of orders to
take part in operations against the northern
province ; the cry of Parliament and People
versus Aristocracy and Army was raised by Radicals
and the name of the Sovereign, although Mr.
Asquith bore testimony to his constitutional correct-
ness, was dragged into the quarrel. It was in this
state of feeling, while Irish Home Rule and Welsh
Disestablishment were being carried through their
final stages over the head of the peers, that the
supreme call came to the country.

On June 28 the Hereditary Archduke of Austria
and his wife were murdered at Serajevo. Not
suspecting what lay in the lap of that event, the
House of Commons, after expressing sympathy
with the mourners, proceeded with its acrimonious
dissensions. So dangerous were domestic diffi-
culties that on July 10, in debate on the Foreign
Office vote, when Radicals impressed upon the
Secretary of State the duty of maintaining peace


throughout the world, Mr. Bonar Law emphasized
rather the obhgation on Ministers to keep peace
within our own borders. The urgency of this
obhgation was shown by the steps taken by the
Covenanters of Ulster to organize a Provisional

While the Conference of representative men of
all parties summoned by the King was engaged at
Buckingham Palace on the Ulster question, Austria
presented to Serbia the ultimatum which led
diplomatists to consider what Russia would do and
what would happen if the Tsar stood by the small
State in the Balkans which looked to him for
protection. On July 24 the Palace Conference
broke up " unable to agree." The same day
Sir Edward Grey received a copy of the ominous
ultimatum and on Sunday the 26th he was informed
by our ambassador at Vienna of Austria's diploma-
tic rupture with Serbia. " War," telegraphed Sir
M. de Bunsen, " is thought to be imminent."
On that Sunday, as if a malign fate were tying our
hands, difficulties at home were aggravated by a
collision in Dublin between people and soldiers
on the landing of arms by the Irish National
Volunteers, who were following the example of the
Ulster Covenanters.

In the ever memorable last week of July, the
last week of the old world, which opened at West-
minster with Sir Edward Grey's warning and the
avoidance of naval debate, Parliament watched the
cloud in the East with fluctuating hopes and
fears. Gradually, although slowly, the consciousness
that the attempt to crush Serbia might set all
Europe aflame worked itself into minds reluctant
to receive it. Yet even during that period there
were moments of angry discord in the House of


Commons. On Wednesday, the 29th, the day
after Austria declared war, sharp controversy arose
on the DubUn gun-running incident. In the latter
part of the week domestic differences were driven
out of members' thoughts by the bombardment
of Belgrade, the reports of Russian mobilization
and the suspicions of Germany's secret measures.
Timid people drew their gold from the banks and
those who prided themselves on prudence and may
have recalled the experience of Parisians described
by Mr. Arnold Bennett in The Old Wives' Tale,
laid in stocks of food for the few months which
as they supposed a great war might occupy. On
the other hand, a vast number of people left town
for holiday resorts on Saturday, the first of August,
hoping that, after all, the storm might be averted
by Sir Edward Grey's persistent efforts. Events
did not wait on their pleasure.

The storm broke out before Parliament met on
Bank Holiday. Germany had declared war against
Russia on Saturday evening. She had also chal-
lenged France to say what her attitude would be
and France had proudly replied she would have
regard to her interests. On Sunday it was known
that German troops had entered the Grand Duchy
of Luxemburg and a demand was made for their
passage through Belgian territory. The world won-
dered what would be the action of Great Britain.
France turned to us with supreme anxiety. Were
we not under an obligation of honour as her
friend to go to her assistance ?

There were momentous Councils at Downing
Street that holiday week-end and Rumour was busy.
Mr. Asquith and Sir Edward Grey, as was rightly
believed, were for intervention, but financial influ-
ences had been brought to bear in favour of


neutrality and several Ministers ^vere hesitating
while a few were definitely against war. At last on
Sunday, after a Cabinet, the Foreign Secretary
gave M. Cambon an assurance that if the German
Fleet came into the Channel or through the North
Sea to undertake hostile operations against French
coasts or shipping, our Fleet would give all the
protection in its power. Would we do more ?
Would we declare the violation of Belgian territory
a casus belli ? The Government had to take one
of the great decisions of history and sound the
House of Commons. That was the position on
Monday, the third of August.

\Mio that was present in the House that day
will ever forget the scene and the emotions of the
occasion — the crowded Chamber, the eager, excited
faces, the grave, calm Foreign Secretary, the
world-agitating issue he presented, the high resolve
of the representatives of the nation ? So large
was the attendance that chairs were brought in
and placed between the bar and the table. Three
times before I had seen this extra accommodation
provided — at the introduction of the Home Rule
Bill by its author in 1886, for Mr. Chamberlain's
reply to Mr. Asquith's motion of no-confidence in
the Conservative Government in 1892, and again
in the following year at Mr. Gladstone's submission
of his second scheme of Home Rule. Those
events, although appealing to the passions of parties,
were as stage plays compared with the problem so
vital to our destiny submitted on the Bank Holiday
afternoon. Every hour was bringing news of
events which were dividing Europe into vast,
moving armies. Was our own army to enter the
field ? Would a war policy be supported by
Parliament ? The Russian ambassador, seated in


the gallery, his long, fine fingers on the front rail,
watched the scene with a searching, nervous
glance. " It was not until Grey spoke," the
French ambassador told a friend, " that we could

The Englishman on whose words the world
waited sat still and silent, and aloof from what
was occurring around him during the opening
proceedings of the House, scanning his notes or
with eyes looking far off, absorbed in thought.
He had no dramatic pose. Seeing the national
duty, he was there to declare it with a full sense of
responsibility. No one had more plainly told
what was meant by a European war. No one could
have more earnestly or sincerely laboured to pre-
serve peace. Yet now he saw that British interests
and the obligation of honour in our friendship with
France, as well as in our treaty obligations to
Belgium, might require us to take up arms. His
speech determined the decision of Parliament.
The least pretentious. Sir Edward Grey was the
most persuasive of speakers. In unadorned, frank
words he so framed his indictment that it went
home to reason and conscience. The feeling of
the House was displayed unmistakably. Cheers,
bold and defiant in some quarters and in others

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Online LibraryAlexander MackintoshFrom Gladstone to Lloyd George; Parliament in peace and war → online text (page 1 of 22)