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THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH



THE OLD ORDER
CHANGETH



THE PASSING OF POWER
FROM THE HOUSE OF LORDS



BY

FRANK DILNOT



The old order changeth, yielding place to new



LONDON
SMITH, ELDER & CO., 15, WATERLOO PLACE

1911

All rights reserved



^^



fo^






PRINTED BY

WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,

LONDON AND BECCLES.



I



PREFACE

Periods of transition in our political history are appraised
more faithfully, their causes and effects discerned more
clearly, when looked at from the days of posterity than
when nerves are still ajar with the clash of conflict, and
vision distorted with a temper not yet cold. But to
refrain from chronicling great events when they have
passed before the eye simply because succeeding genera-
tions may be better able to fit the parts of the story
is to make an idol of pedantry, and to do disservice to
the State. Perspective is of transcendent value to the
historian, but other factors must not be depreciated ; and
it has to be remembered that the long-distance view
always leaves unseen many poignant incidents, always
detracts from the pervading force of personality — as
potent in the field of politics as on the field of battle.
The glitter of the moment may now and again lessen the
worth of descriptions, and take the point from judgments ;
but these defects are more than balanced by the freshness
of impressions, and by the liveliness of a picture which
in later years must be done in duller colours, and done
at second hand.

It was my lot to witness every stage of the proceedings
which culminated this summer in the legislation depriving



4259S



vi PREFACE

the Lords of the powers possessed by them for centuries.
From the gallery of Parliament I saw the strenuous
passage of the Budget of 1909, watched the Lords give
it their fatal blow, and was present during the successive
crises which developed out of each other from month to
month until at last the hand of the Sovereign himself
was invoked against the outstanding Peers. A connected
and continuous story of the conflict from start to finish
seems to me a work which may possess a value, as well
as an interest, for all who have a feeling for history.

The political happenings of the two years from 1909 to
1911 were not only history but drama. From beginning
to end events were linked together, and the many quick
revealments, the influence of strong temperaments, the
possibilities of the approaching finale, all helped to give
the situation a fascination which can be but faintly
reflected in written words. Some day perhaps more of
the drama will be made known to the world : the private
rehearsals, the secret disappointments and triumphs of
the authors. These things will have an interest of their
own. My task it is to present the play as it was given
before the footlights, with its fluctuating attractions, its
excitements, its contending ideals, its bitterness, its
chivalries.

To tell a plain tale plainly has been my aim. And
in the telling of it I have endeavoured to give honour
where honour is due, to abstain from blame where
motives are doubtful, to explain equitably rival objects
and ideas, and to be as just to the individual leaders as
to the principles they advocate. I have watched men



PREFACE vii

battling during years for and against a purpose which,
now that it is achieved, must remain a permanent mark
in English history. These men I have portrayed as I have
seen them. The story that links them is indivisible from
themselves, and they have the knowledge, if not the
satisfaction, that be they great men or lesser men Fate
has tossed them to the surface amid events which will
find their place in the progressive record of man's
government of man.

F. D.

London,

SeptembeTt 1911.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

THE GATHERING OF THE STORM

Origin of the 1909 Budget— Twenty years of barren Liberalism-
Generation of new forces — The sweeping victory of 1906 —
Rejection of leading Liberal measures by the House of Lords
— Government followers exasperated — Mr. Asquith becomes
Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George Chancellor of the Ex-
chequer — The first Budget of Mr. Lloyd George — Prospective
frustration of the House of Lords



CHAPTER II

MR. LLOYD GEORGE

Attitude of opponents— Birth and upbringing— Early poverty and
struggles — The village boy and his uncle — Solicitor at twenty-
one — His first notable success — Growing reputation — Enters
Parliament at twenty-seven — Prominence in the House of
Commons — Unpopularity during Boer War — Guerilla fighter
to Minister — President of Board of Trade — Recognition o^
achievements — Unconventionality in oflfice — Personality —
His power in the House of Commons 17



CHAPTER III

THE BUDGET

A great Parliamentary occasion — Scene in the House of Commons
— Outlines of the Budget — Expenditure and revenue — Antici-
pated deficit for the year — The proposed new taxes — Excite-
ment at novel plans — Breakdown of Mr. Lloyd George —
New Doomsday Book— A Budget for the future ... 36



X CONTENTS

CHAPTEE IV

THE FIGHT OF THE CONSERVATIVES

PAGE

Indignation caused by the Budget — Opposition plans — Mr.
Balfour as Conservative leader — His extraordinary qualities
— The help of Mr. Austen Chamberlain and Mr. F. E. Smith
— Criticism of Budget proposals — The beginning of Socialism
— An omen of future efforts 66

CHAPTER V

THE LIMEHOUSB CAMPAIGN

Fight against the Budget — Efforts of Conservative members — The
House of Commons battle — Burden on Ministers — Criticism
of Mr. Lloyd George — The speech at Limehouse — Comments
on landlords— The Gorringe case— Lord Rosebery against
the Government— Budget storm in the country ... 76

CHAPTER VI

THE EPISODE OF THE LORD ADVOCATE

Mr. Ure's platform value— Complaints of his inaccuracy — Possible
loss of old age pensions under Conservatives — Indignant Con-
servative denials — Liberal criticism of Mr. Ure — Denuncia-
tion by Mr. Balfour — " The frigid and calculated lie " — Mr.
Ure defends himself in the House of Commons — Impassioned
attack on Mr. Balfour— Mr. Balfour forced to reply— A
thrilling scene 92

CHAPTER VII

THE CHANGING DRAMA

The powers of the House of Lords in respect of money bills — The
fate of the Budget in doubt — Possibility of extreme action —
Attitude of Conservative leaders — Peers decide on rejection —
Determination to check Mr. Lloyd George — Budget debate in
House of Lords — Lord Lansdowne sounds the note of war—
The Lord Chancellor as Government champion — Rights of
the Peers surveyed — The Government defiance — Rejection of
the Budget — Mr. Asquith's move 107



CONTENTS XI



CHAPTER VIII

MR. ASQUITH TAKES THB FIELD

Characteristics of Mr. Asquith— His leadership — Aptitude in
Parliament— Lucidity — Laconic repartee — His speech against
the Lords — Announcement of dissolution — Mr. Balfour's reply
— Parliament prorogued — Election contest begins — Mr.
Asquith's declaration at the Albert Hall — The " guarantees"
— Dissolution of Parliament 130



PAGE



CHAPTER IX

THE SEQUEL OF THB ELECTION

Suspense during the contest — The result — Claims of the parties
— King Edward opens new Parliament — The speech from the
Throne — Assembly of the Commons — Mr. Asquith's anti-
climax — Liberal disappointment — Irish Nationalist protest . 144



CHAPTER X

MR. ASQUITH FORCES THE PACE

The Veto resolutions — Liberals encouraged — Proposals before the
House of Commons — Prince of Wales present— Vigorous
speech by Mr. Asquith — Mr. Balfour's skill — Mr. Redmond
tells the Government what they have to do — The interest of
the debate — Scenes on April 14 — Parliament Bill read a first
time — Mr. Asquith's sensational statement — The " guaran-
tees " at last — 1909 Budget passed — Parliament adjourns for
Whitsuntide holidays 159



CHAPTER XI

THE GONFBBBNCB OF BIGHT

The position of King Edward— General confidence in the Sovereign
—Consultations with Ministers— Sudden illness of the King—
His death— Tributes in Parliament— Alteration of political



xii CONTENTS



PAGE



position — Mr. Asquith announces Conference between the
two parties — Personnel of the Conference — Secrecy of pro-
ceedings — Efforts to secure settlement — The eight men at
work— Failure of Conference— A state of war again « , 174



CHAPTEB XII

THE SECOND ELECTION

Government plan of campaign — Decision to strike at once — Con-
servative Peers take action — Formal proposal of Parliament
Bill in House of Lords— Counterstroke by Lord Lansdowne —
The Conservative reconstitution scheme — Discussion in the
House of Lords — Unionists warn the country against Home
Rule — Mr. Redmond and his American dollars denounced —
Government successful at the polls — Parliament Bill to be
main business of the Session — BiU introduced in the House
of Commons — Commencement of the great fight — Sketch of
the Speaker 190



CHAPTER XIII

THE CHALLENGE OF THE COMMONS

Brilliant Parliamentary discussion — ^Temporary leadership given
to Mr. ChurohUl — A pungent young statesman — Stormy
passages — Debating duels between Mr. Asquith and Mr.
Balfour — Parliament Bill sent up to the Lords « « . 209



CHAPTER XIV

THE CONSERVATIVB PLANS

House of Lords Reconstitution Bill — Relinquishment of heredi-
tary claims— Changing views — Conservative desire for reform



CONTENTS xiii

PAOE

— The Referendnm — Liberal objections — Lord Balfour of
Burleigh and his " Reference to the People " Bill— Lord
Lansdowne's new House of Lords 225



CHAPTER XV

THE FIELD OF BATTLE

Peers face to face with Parliament Bill — Mr. Asquith's secret —
Current Conservatism struggling for existence — The difficul-
ties of Mr. Balfour — Theories of the two parties — Peers*
strategy — Lord Morley as leader in the House of Lords — The
Lord Chancellor and Lord Haldane — The fight of the
Government trio 239



CHAPTER XVI

THE BE -MODELLED BILL

Lords pass the second reading of the Parliament Bill — Important
amendments forecasted by Conservatives — Adjournment over
the Coronation — Prominence of the Peers — Scene at the
Abbey — The lonely Prime Minister — Ideals of the Conserva-
tives — House of Lords begin Committee stage of Parliament
Bill — Government firm against changes — Conservatives force
modifications— Text of the altered Bill . . » . . 254



CHAPTER XVII

THE STALWARTS AT BAY

Lord Halsbury leads a " No surrender " party — Rebellion against
Mr. Balfour and Lord Lansdowne — Government defied to
make new Peers — Mr. Asquith's announcement of the King's
intention — Anger of the Opposition — Meeting of Peers at
Lansdowne House — Prospective creation of Liberal Lords —
Discussion on Government threat — The precedents of 1711-
1712 and 1832 273



xiv CONTENTS

CHAPTER XVIII

THE ORDEAL OF MR. ASQUITH

PAGE

Events of July 24 — Commons assemble to hear Mr. Asquith's
statement — Turbulence in House — " Traitor " — Conservatives
refuse to hear Mr. Asquith— Efiorts of the Speaker— Lord
Hugh Cecil leads disorder — Demeanour of Mr. Asquith — Mr.
Balfour tries to repress his supporters — Speaker adjourns the
House — Mr. Asquith's undelivered speech . ; . . 295



CHAPTER XIX

MR. BALFOUR WITHSTANDS THE STALWARTS

Manifestoes to Conservative rebels by Lord Lansdowne and Mr.
Balfour — Abandonment of Conservative meeting in City of
London — Division in the Conservative Press — Leaders of the
two sections — Difficulties of the Government — Re-amended
Parliament Bill in the balance — Conservative votes of censure
on the Government — The critical week 323



CHAPTER XX

THE KING AND THE CABINET

Mr. Asquith gives communications between Sovereign and
Government — Cabinet's message to the King — His Majesty's
assent — Defence of Government course — Lord Crewe relates
details of negotiations with the King — Commons discuss
Lords' amendments to the Parliament Bill — Mr. Balfour
states future policy of Conservatives on Second Chamber . 384



CHAPTER XXI

HOW THE LORDS ASSENTED

The position at final stage— Energy of Mr. P. E. Smith and
Lord Willoughby de Broke — A night of surprises — Conten-
tions between Conservative Peers — Fluctuating chances — The
great division 867



CONTENTS XV

CHAPTEB XXII

THE NEW EPOCH

PAGE

Parliament Bill becomes law— What the immediate result will

be — Forecast of the future ...•••• 376

Appendix 379

Index 383



'o 1 o o > , , , ' .



THE

OLD ORDER CHANGETH

CHAPTEK I

THE GATHERING OF THE STORM

At half-past two on the afternoon of Thursday, April 29th;
1909, Mr. Lloyd George walked briskly across New Palace
Yard to the members' entrance of the House of Commons,
carrying in his hand a small red despatch-box which
contained the outline of a scheme destined to wreck
the powers of the House of Lords and to open a new era
in British poHtics.

The actual beginnings of great movements have always
a fascination in after times, and there is interest in the
conjecture as to whether Mr. Lloyd George when walking
towards the pohcemen guarding the way into the House
had a vision of the future's changes to result from that
afternoon's work. Perhaps he did, for he is a Celt, with
a Celtic intuition. He must certainly have had an
expectation of some of these changes, for as Chancellor
of the Exchequer he was about to introduce his first
Budget with its far-reaching and novel provisions. If
in addition he had a glimmering of what was to be the

B



^v;;; :;t]^e OLD order changeth

secondary effect of that Budget, he saw things which no
practical poHtician of that time would have believed to
be possible happenings within a period of ordinary human
outlook. The enthusiastic reformer, however, takes
audacious glimpses into futurity, and there may have
been in Mr. Lloyd George's mind that day, thoughts,
fears and ambitions, which, if they had found expression,
would then have been regarded as tremendous and out-
rageous. From his appearance no one would have guessed
that he harboured a sinister design against one of the
component parts of the constitution. Knowingly or
unknowingly, he was going into the House of Commons to
make history, but there seemed no great weight on his
mind on that spring afternoon as he made his way across
Palace Yard. With him was his close poHtical companion
and personal friend, Mr. Winston Churchill. They
entered by the big gateway at the corner nearest to
Whitehall, and they passed over to the House in conversa-
tion together. Mr. Churchill seemed rather laden with
the seriousness of the occasion, but there was no sign of
depression about Mr. Lloyd George. He listened to his
friend's remarks with a characteristic air of vivacity and
fighting good humour, and at the archway leading to the
members' entrance he smiled recognition to a constable
who had raised his hand in salute. Then he and his
friend passed inside.

Eound at another door there were entering members
of the House of Lords on their way up to their special
gallery to hear the introduction of a Budget which they
felt beforehand would have evil consequences for the
country. They httle knew that whatever its direct
consequences it was fated ultimately to strike a deadly



THE GATHERING OF THE Stf)R^l' ' ' 5

blow at their own privileges — privileges till then regarded
by the State as theirs by inalienable right.

In order to appreciate properly the Budget day of
1909 it is necessary to have in mind the development of
events which led up to it. For nearly twenty years the
Liberal party had been fighting with adversity. The
Unionists had the upper hand practically from the time
that Lord Sahsbury took oiB&ce in 1886 until Mr. Balfour
resigned at the end of 1905. True there was a Liberal
Ministry in power for the three years from 1892 to 1895,
but they were weak Liberal years. A slender majority
of forty was all that was available, and although Mr.
Gladstone held the Government in being until his retire-
ment in 1894, it was Uttle more than a year later that an
adverse vote in the House of Commons brought the Parha-
ment to an end. There was a general election. Liberals
were overwhelmed throughout the country, and the
Unionists came into power with a majority of 152. The
ensuing ten years was a period of dissension and disaster
for what may be called official Liberalism. In a hopeless
minority in the House of Commons, the Liberals developed
serious sectional differences. The trouble in South
Africa leading to war in 1899 accentuated those differences
and set up a furious strife between the staid traditional
Liberal of Whig tendencies and the advanced Kadical
with notions regarded as extreme, impractical, and, so
far as the war was concerned, unpatriotic. In 1900,
during the South African contest, another general election
carried in the Unionists again on a wave of war feeling
by a majority of 134. Quarrels between leading Liberals
grew more acute than ever. Lord Eosebery who had
succeeded Mr, Gladstone in the chieftainship of the party.



^>:'.";fCEE'ai:D ORDER CHANGETH

was at the head of one section, and Sir Henry Campbell-
Bannerman was at the head of the other. The divided
counsels which distracted Liberahsm at this time may
be gauged from the fact that Lord Rosebery in 1901
pubHcly swept away many cherished Liberal projects,
including the aUiance with the Irish members, and
declared for the pohcy of the " clean slate," and that a
month or two later Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
declared in public, "I am no behever in the * clean
slate.' " The Liberal League with strong imperialist
tendencies was formed, with Lord Rosebery as its
President, and with Sir Edward Grey and Mr. Asquith
among its members, in order to save the Liberal party in
general from the condemnatory epithet " pro-Boer."
But although the Liberal Leaguers were the popular
body, and although Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and
his followers were abused to a degree far beyond ordinary
party invective, it was the latter who had a hold on the
Liberal organisation, and who eventually brought the
Liberals out of the wilderness. Their success was by no
means the result of their own unaided genius, but un-
doubtedly something was due to personahty. In the
first place. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, though no
orator, had the qualities of a tenacious Scot, and while
the most genial of men, was at the same time shrewd;
far-seeing, and unwavering. Alone, however, he could
have done little, but he was backed by all that was
strongest in the unofficial Liberahsm of the House of
Commons. It may be mentioned here that among the
most noticeable of his supporters was Mr. Lloyd
George, who in recent years had been springing into
prominence as a young Welsh member of keen wit and



THE GATHERING OF THE STORM 5

vitriolic speech. But no Parliamentary assistance from
individual followers, however enthusiastic or able, would
have hfted Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman to power in
the face of nominal friends on the one hand and actual
foes on the other, without the help of forces deep-rooted
and widespreading. While the official Liberal leaders
were quarrelling with each other new influences, new
thoughts, new ambitions, were making themselves felt
throughout the community. The patriotic fervour of
the war time allowed little chance of development, but
when the war was ended they soon began to find expression.
The new impulse received substantial adventitious aid
from what may be called one of the traits of political
human nature. There had been something like fifteen or
sixteen years of Conservative domination in the government
of the country, and the " swing of the pendulum "
tendency was making itself observable even among
Unionists. In poHtics, as in other departments of hfe,
the long uninterrupted excellencies of one's friends some-
times approach the verge of wearisomeness, and there
springs up an irrational desire to experience for a time the
activities of enemies. Moreover, some of the adherents
of a party in power for any length of time become dis-
appointed, others disgusted, and others again genuinely
hostile. All Governments experience something of the
kind, but in the years between 1900 and 1905 many
other influences were also at work to weaken the hold
of the Government on the country, and they were
extraordinary influences.

Another generation had come into being since the
time when Gladstone, the great Liberal leader, had held
sway. With him had departed effective Liberalism.



6 THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH

Since his time boys had grown to the pride of manhood,
school children had become husbands and wives, and
tens of thousands unborn when he laid down the reins of
ofl&ce were now adult voters in town and village. Practi-
cally all of the young electors had gone through the most
impressionable years of their Ufe while one party and one
party alone ruled the State. The continued ascendency
of an unchanged set of governors over such a long period
was in itself sufficient to increase into a lasting sense of
injury what might in some cases have been a passing
discontent. An element of curiosity with regard to the
Liberals, and an Enghsh desire to play the game fairly,
formed parts of the new impulse that was abroad. More
potent than all these forces was the remaining one. The
unrest of fervid young poHticians on the progressive side
was being manifested in unexpected places. The radius
of elementary education had been enlarged by another
generation, and in addition to this the increased oppor-
tunities for education among the poorer classes were
producing the effect, for good or evil, that a deeper and
more extensive interest was being taken in poHtics by the
great bulk of the working folk of the country. There was
a threatening note of practicalness in the chorus of demand
for improved social conditions for the more unfortunate
of our people. " Equahty of opportunity " was beginning
to be demanded by young men whose fathers would have
been outraged at *' socialistic '* ideas.

Evils which for a century have called forth the spas-
modic and largely ineffective protests of individuals,
writers and preachers, as well as poUticians, began not
merely to stir the sympathies, but to rouse the determina-
tion of a great proportion of the community. Among the



THE GATHERING OF THE STORM 7

Conservatives as well as in the Progressive forces one
found traces of the prevalent spirit, and the more
active-minded and ambitious of the younger men entered
upon a struggle with regard to the old shibboleths. To
some extent they shared the impatience and indignation
of the fiery spirits on the other side at the cautiousness
with which urgent political problems were approached.
It may be argued that these feelings showed them to be
no true Conservatives at all ; be that as it may, the
fact remains that one or two men, the rising hopes
of the party, notably Mr. Winston Churchill and
Major Seely, presently crossed the floor and joined Sir
Henry Campbell-Bannerman. An indication of the new
feehng in the country at this time is shown by the effective
way in which the Labour leaders were organising them-
selves and the manual workers in various constituencies,
and making ready for the appeal to the country when it
should come. Labour men, including the Socialists and
Trade Unionists, represented only the advance guard of
what for want of a better term may be called the New
Liberahsm, which was already constituting itself a factor
in our national life.

This New Liberalism which was for thorough measures,
which would brook no hesitancy or timidity on the part
of its leaders, took Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
as its chief. Lord Eosebery left the fighting fine alto-
gether. Enthusiasm grew. The country was at one of
those phases in political history when inspiration comes
from the ranks instead of from the commanders, a fact
which, while it sometimes brings a touch of danger, is
productive of virihty and strength. By the time 1905
was reached the country was in a state of expectancy.



8 THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH

Large sections of the public had, or claimed to have;
striking grievances which called loudly for redress. Apart
from the rousing of the social conscience with regard to
the sufferings of the more or less helpless poor, the silent



Online LibraryFrank DilnotThe old order changeth, the passing of power from the House of lords → online text (page 1 of 29)