1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Balfour, Arthur James
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Balfour, Arthur James
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BALFOUR, ARTHUR JAMES (1848- ), British statesman, eldest son of James Maitland Balfour of Whittingehame, Haddingtonshire, and of Lady Blanche Gascoyne Cecil, a sister of the third marquess of Salisbury, was born on the 25th of July 1848. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1874 he became M.P. in the Conservative interest for Hertford, and represented that constituency until 1885. When, in the spring of 1878, Lord Salisbury became foreign minister on the resignation of the fifteenth Lord Derby, Mr Balfour became his private secretary. In that capacity he accompanied his uncle to the Berlin congress, and gained his first experience of international politics in connexion with the settlement of the Russo-Turkish conflict. It was at this time also that he became known in the world of letters, the intellectual subtlety and literary capacity of his Defence of Philosophic Doubt (1879) suggesting that he might make a reputation as a speculative thinker. Belonging, however, to a class in which the responsibilities of government are a traditional duty, Mr Balfour divided his time between the political arena and the study. Being released from his duties as private secretary by the general election of 1880, he began to take a rather more active part in parliamentary affairs. He was for a time politically associated with Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir Henry Drummond Wolff and Sir John (then Mr) Gorst, the quartette becoming known as the “Fourth Party,” and gaining notoriety by the freedom of the criticisms directed by its leader, Lord Randolph Churchill, against Sir Stafford Northcote, Lord Cross and other prominent members of the “old gang.” In these sallies, however, Mr Balfour had no direct share. He was thought to be merely amusing himself with politics. It was regarded as doubtful whether his health could withstand the severity of English winters, and the delicacy of his physique and the languor of his manner helped to create the impression that, however great his intellectual powers might be, he had neither the bodily strength nor the energy of character requisite for a political career. He was the “odd man” of the Fourth Party, apparently content to fetch and carry for his colleagues, and was believed to have no definite ambitions of his own. His reputation in the parliament of 1880-1886 was that of a dilettante, who allied himself with the three politicians already named from a feeling of irresponsibility rather than of earnest purpose; he was regarded as one who, on the rare occasions when he spoke, was more desirous to impart an academic quality to his speeches than to make any solid contribution to public questions. The House, indeed, did not take him quite seriously. Members did not suspect the reserve of strength and ability beneath what seemed to them to be the pose of a parliamentary flâneur; they looked upon him merely as a young member of the governing classes who remained in the House because it was the proper thing for a man of family to do. As a member of the coterie known as the “Souls” he was, so to speak, caviare to the general. Indolence was supposed to be the keynote of his character—a refined indolence, not, however, without cleverness of a somewhat cynical and superior order.
That these views were not shared by Lord Salisbury was sufficiently shown by the fact that in his first administration (June 1885-January 1886) he made Mr Balfour president of the Local Government Board, and in forming his second administration (July 1886) secretary for Scotland with a seat in the cabinet. These offices gave few opportunities for distinction, and may be regarded merely as Mr Balfour's apprenticeship to departmental responsibilities. The accidents of political life suddenly opened out to him a career which made him, next to Lord Salisbury, the most prominent, the most admired and the most attacked Conservative politician of the day. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, who was chief secretary for Ireland, suffered from an affection of the eyes and found it desirable to resign, and Lord Salisbury appointed his nephew in his stead. The selection took the political world by surprise, and was much criticized. By the Irish Nationalists it was received with contemptuous ridicule, for none suspected Mr Balfour's immense strength of will, his debating power, his ability in attack and his still greater capacity to disregard criticism. The debates on the Crimes Bill and the Irish Land Bill quickly undeceived them, and the steady and even remorseless vigour with which the government of Ireland was conducted speedily convinced the House of Commons and the country that Mr. Balfour was in his right place as chief secretary. His policy was that of “coercion”—the fearless administration of the Crimes Act,—coupled with remedial legislation; and he enforced the one while he proceeded with the other, regardless of the risk of outrage outside the House and of insult within. Mr Balfour's work in this office covered one of the most turbulent and most exciting periods in modern parliamentary history and Irish administration. With a courage that never faltered he broke down the Plan of Campaign in Ireland, and in parliament he not only withstood the assaults of the Irish Nationalists, but waged successful warfare with the entire Home Rule party. He combined an obstinacy of will with a mastery of facts unsurpassed by any of his predecessors in the secretaryship. Events, it is true, were in his favour. The disclosures before the Parnell Commission, the O'Shea divorce proceedings, the downfall of Mr Parnell and the disruption of the Irish party, assisted him in his task; but the fact remains that by persistent courage and undeviating thoroughness he reduced crime in Ireland to a vanishing point. His work was also constructive, for he broadened the basis of material prosperity and social progress by creating the Congested Districts Board in 1890. During this period, from 1886-1892, moreover, he developed gifts of oratory which made him one of the most effective of public speakers. Impressive in matter rather than in manner of delivery, and seldom rising to the level of eloquence in the sense in which that quality was understood in a House which had listened to Bright and Gladstone, his speeches were logical and convincing, and their attractive literary form delighted a wider audience than that which listens to the mere politician.
In 1888 Mr Balfour served on the Gold and Silver Commission, currency problems from the standpoint of bimetallism being among the more academic subjects which had engaged his attention. On the death of Mr W. H. Smith in 1891 he became first lord of the treasury and leader of the House of Commons, and in that capacity introduced in 1892 a Local Government Bill for Ireland. The Conservative government was then at the end of its tether, and the project fell through. For the next three years Mr Balfour led the opposition with great skill and address. On the return of the Unionists to power in 1895 he resumed the leadership of the House, but not at first with the success expected of him, his management of the abortive education proposals of '96 being thought, even by his own supporters, to show a disinclination for the continuous drudgery of parliamentary management under modern conditions. But after the opening session matters proceeded more smoothly, and Mr Balfour regained his old position in the estimation of the House and the country. He had the satisfaction of seeing a bill pass for providing Ireland with an improved system of local government, and took an active share in the debates on the various foreign and domestic questions that came before parliament during 1895-1900. His championship of the voluntary schools, his adroit parliamentary handling of the problems opened up by the so-called “crisis in the Church” caused by the Protestant movement against ritualistic practices, and his pronouncement in favour of a Roman Catholic university for Ireland—for which he outlined a scheme that met with much adverse criticism both from his colleagues and his party,—were the most important aspects of Mr Balfour's activity during these years. His speeches and work throughout this period took a wider range than before his accession to the leadership of the Commons. During the illness of Lord Salisbury in 1898, and again in Lord Salisbury's absence abroad, he was in charge of the foreign office, and it fell to his lot to conduct the very critical negotiations with Russia on the question of railways in North China. To his firmness, and at the same time to the conciliatory readiness with which he accepted and elaborated the principles of a modus vivendi, the two powers owed the avoidance of what threatened to be a dangerous quarrel. As a member of the cabinet responsible for the Transvaal negotiations in 1899 he bore his full share of controversy, and when the war opened so disastrously he was the first to realize the necessity for putting the full military strength of the country into the field. At the general election of 1900 he was returned for East Manchester (which he had represented since 1885) by a majority of 2453, and continued in office as first lord of the treasury. His leadership of the House of Commons in the first session of the new parliament was marked by considerable firmness in the suppression of obstruction, but there was a slight revival of the criticisms which had been current in 1896. Mr Balfour's inability to get the maximum amount of work out of the House was largely due to the situation in South Africa, which absorbed the intellectual energies of the House and of the country and impeded the progress of legislation.
The principal achievements of the long session of 1902 (which extended to the autumn) were the passing of the Education Act,—entirely reorganizing the system of primary education, abolishing the school boards and making the county councils the local authority; new rules of procedure; and the creation of the Metropolitan Water Board; and on all these questions, and particularly the two first, Mr Balfour's powers as a debater were brilliantly exhibited.
On Lord Salisbury's resignation on the 11th of July 1902, Mr Balfour succeeded him as prime minister, with the cordial approval of all sections of the Unionist party. For the next three and a half years his premiership involves the political history of England, at a peculiarly interesting period both for foreign and domestic affairs. Within a few weeks Mr Balfour had reconstituted the cabinet. He himself became first lord of the treasury and lord privy seal, with the duke of Devonshire (remaining lord president of the council) as leader of the House of Lords; Lord Lansdowne remained foreign secretary, Mr (afterwards Lord) Ritchie took the place of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach (afterwards Lord St Aldwyn) as chancellor of the exchequer, Mr J. Chamberlain remained colonial secretary, his son Austen being postmaster-general with a seat in the cabinet. Mr G. Wyndham as chief secretary for Ireland was included in the cabinet; Lord Selborne remained at the admiralty, Mr St John Brodrick (afterwards Lord Midleton) war minister, Lord George Hamilton secretary for India, and Mr Akers-Douglas, who had been first commissioner of works, became home secretary; Lord Balfour of Burleigh remained secretary for Scotland, Lord Dudley succeeded Lord Cadogan as lord lieutenant of Ireland, and Lord Londonderry became president of the Board of Education (with Sir William Anson as parliamentary secretary in the House of Commons). Mr Balfour's brother Gerald (b. 1853), who had entered public life as his private secretary when at the Local Government Board, and had been chief secretary for Ireland from 1895-1900, retained his position (since 1900) as president of the Board of Trade.
The new prime minister came into power practically at the same moment as the king's coronation (see Edward VII.) and the end of the South African War (see Transvaal). The task of clearing up after the war, both in South Africa and at home, lay before him; but his cordial relations with Mr Chamberlain (q.v.), and the enthusiastic support of a large parliamentary majority, made the prospects fair. For a while no cloud appeared on the horizon: and the Liberal party were still disorganized (see Campbell-Bannerman and Rosebery) over their attitude towards the Boers. Mr Chamberlain went to South Africa in the late autumn, with the hope that his personality would influence the settlement there; and the session of 1903 opened in February with no hint of troubles to come. A difficulty with Venezuela, resulting in British and German co-operation to coerce that refractory republic, caused an explosion of anti-German feeling in England and some restlessness in the United States, but the government brought the crisis to an end by tactful handling and by an ultimate recourse to arbitration. The two chief items of the ministerial parliamentary programme were the extension of the new Education Act to London and Mr Wyndham's Irish Land Purchase Act, by which the British exchequer should advance the capital for enabling the tenants in Ireland to buy out the landlords. Moreover, the budget was certain to show a surplus and taxation could be remitted. As events proved, it was the budget which was to provide a cause of dissension, bringing a new political movement into being, and an issue overriding all the legislative interest of the session. Mr Ritchie's remission of the shilling import-duty on corn led to Mr Chamberlain's crusade in favour of tariff reform and colonial preference, and as the session proceeded the rift grew in the Unionist ranks.
In the separate article on Mr Chamberlain the progress of this movement is sufficiently narrated. From this moment it is only necessary here to realize Mr Balfour's position. He had always admitted the onesidedness of the English free-trade system, and had supported the desirability of retaliating against unfair competition and “dumping” by foreign countries. But Mr Chamberlain's new programme for a general tariff, with new taxes on food arranged so as to give a preference to colonial products, involved a radical alteration of the established fiscal system, and such out-and-out Unionist free-traders in the cabinet as Mr Ritchie and Lord George Hamilton, and outside it, like Lord Hugh Cecil and Mr Arthur Elliot (secretary to the treasury), were entirely opposed to this. Mr Balfour was anxious to avoid a rupture, doubtful of the feeling of the country, uncertain of the details by which Mr Chamberlain's scheme could be worked out. As leader of the party and responsible for the maintenance of so great a political engine, he was anxious not to be precipitate. He was neither for nor against the new movement, and professed to hold “no settled convictions” on the subject. Mr Chamberlain rested his case largely on the alleged diminution in British trade, and the statistics therefore required investigation before the government could adopt any such programme. From the middle of May, when Mr Chamberlain began to press the matter, Mr Balfour had a difficult hand to play, so long as it was uncertain how the party would follow the new lead. The Board of Trade was asked to supply full figures, and while its report was awaited the uncertainty of attitude on the part of the government afforded grateful opportunity for opposition mischief-making, since the Liberal party had now the chance of acting as the conservative champions of orthodox economics. Another opportunity for making political capital was provided by the publication of the report of the royal commission on the Boer War under Lord Elgin's chairmanship, which horrified the country by its disclosures (August 26th) as to the political and military muddling which had gone on, and the want of any efficient system of organization.
The session ended in August without any definite action on the fiscal question, but in the cabinet the discussions continued. On the 16th of September Mr Balfour published a pamphlet on “Insular Free Trade,” and on the 18th it was announced that Lord George Hamilton and Mr Ritchie had resigned, Lord Balfour of Burleigh and Mr Arthur Elliot following a day or two later. These were the strait free-traders, but at the same time Mr Chamberlain resigned also. The correspondence between Mr Chamberlain and Mr Balfour (September 9th and 16th) was published, and presented the latter in the light of a sympathizer with some form of fiscal union with the colonies, if practicable, and in favour of retaliatory duties, but unable to believe that the country was yet ready to agree to the taxation of food required for a preferential tariff, and therefore unwilling to support that scheme; at the same time he encouraged Mr Chamberlain to test the feeling of the public and to convert them by his missionary efforts outside the government. Mr Chamberlain on his side emphasized his own parliamentary loyalty to Mr Balfour. In his pamphlet on “Insular Free Trade” the prime minister reviewed the economic history since Cobden's time, pointed to the falsification of the promises of the early free-traders, and to the fact that England was still the only free-importing country, and insisted that he was “in harmony with the true spirit of free-trade” when he pleaded for “freedom to negotiate that freedom of exchange may be increased.” This manifesto was at first taken, not only as the platform of the government, but also as that from which its resigning free-trade members had dissented; and the country was puzzled by a statement from Lord George Hamilton that Mr Balfour had circulated among his colleagues a second and different document, in fuller agreement with Mr Chamberlain. The situation was confused by personal suspicion and distrust as well as by economic difficulties. But the public noted that the duke of Devonshire, whose orthodoxy was considered typical, remained in the cabinet.
The crisis, however, soon developed further, owing to explanations between the free-trade Unionists. On October 1st Mr Balfour spoke at Sheffield, reiterating his views as to free-trade and retaliation, insisting that he “intended to lead,” and declaring that he was prepared at all events to reverse the traditional fiscal policy by doing away with the axiom that import duties should only be levied for revenue purposes. The speech was enthusiastically received by the National Union of Conservative Associations, who had year by year flirted with protectionist resolutions, and who were known to be predominantly in sympathy with Mr Chamberlain. But the free-traders did not like Mr Balfour's formula as to reversing the traditional fiscal policy of import taxes for revenue only. Next day the duke of Devonshire resigned, a step somewhat bitterly resented by Mr Balfour, who clearly thought that his sacrifices in order to conciliate the duke had now been made in vain. During this critical fortnight the duke had apparently acquiesced in Mr Balfour's compromise, and had co-operated in reconstituting the ministry; his nephew and heir had been made financial secretary to the treasury, while Mr Alfred Lyttelton was appointed colonial secretary, Mr Austen Chamberlain chancellor of the exchequer, Mr Brodrick secretary for India, Mr H. O. Arnold-Forster war minister, Lord Stanley postmaster-general and Mr Graham Murray secretary for Scotland. Lord Londonderry now became president of the council, Lord Lansdowne leader of the House of Lords, and Lord Salisbury, son of the late premier, who as Lord Cranborne had for three years been under-secretary for foreign affairs, was included in the cabinet as lord privy seal.
During the remainder of 1903 the struggle within the Unionist party continued. Mr Chamberlain spoke all over the country, advocating a definite scheme for reorganizing the budget, so as to have more taxes on imports, including food, but proposing to adjust the taxation so as to improve the position of the working-classes and to stimulate employment. The free-trade Unionists, with the duke of Devonshire, Lord Goschen, Lord James and Lord Hugh Cecil, as their chief representatives, started a Free Food league in opposition to Mr Chamberlain's Tariff Reform league; and at a great meeting at Queen's Hall, London, on the 24th of November their attitude was made plain. They rejected Mr Chamberlain's food-taxes, discredited his statistics, and, while admitting the theoretical orthodoxy of retaliation, criticized Mr Balfour's attitude and repudiated his assumption that retaliation would be desirable. Finally in December came the appointment of Mr Chamberlain's Tariff Commission. There was no doubt about the obstinacy and persistency of both sections, and both were fighting, not only to persuade the public, but for the capture of the party and of its prime minister. Both sides were inclined to claim him; neither could do so without qualification. His dialectical dexterity in evading the necessity of expressing his fiscal opinions further than he had already done became a daily subject for contemptuous criticism in the Liberal press; but he insisted that in any case no definite action could be taken till the next parliament; and while he declined to go the “whole hog”—as the phrase went—with Mr Chamberlain, he did nothing to discourage Mr Chamberlain's campaign. Whether he would eventually follow in the same direction, or would come back to the straiter free-trade side, continued to be the political conundrum for month after month. Minor changes were made in the ministry in 1903, Mr Brodrick going to the India office and Mr Arnold-Forster becoming minister for war, but Mr Balfour's personal influence remained potent, the government held together, and in 1904 the Licensing Bill was successfully carried. Though a few Unionists transferred their allegiance, notably Mr. Winston Churchill, and by-elections went badly, Mr Balfour still commanded a considerable though a dwindling majority, and the various contrivances of the opposition for combining all free-traders against the government were obstructed by the fact that anything tantamount to a vote of censure would not be supported by the “wobblers” in the ministerial party, while the government could always manage to draft some “safe” amendment acceptable to most of them. This was notably shown in the debate on Mr Black's motion on the 18th of May. On the 3rd of October Mr Balfour spoke at Edinburgh on the fiscal question. The more aggressive protectionists among Mr Chamberlain's supporters had lately become very confident, and Mr Balfour plainly repudiated “protection” in so far as it meant a policy aiming at supporting or creating home industries by raising home prices; but he introduced a new point by declaring that an Imperial Conference would be called to discuss with the colonies the question of preferential tariffs if the Unionist government obtained a majority at the next general election. The Edinburgh speech was again received with conflicting interpretations, and much discussion prevailed as to the conditions of the proposed conference, and as to whether it was or was not an advance, as the Chamberlainites claimed, towards Mr Chamberlain. Meanwhile the party was getting more and more disorganized, and the public were getting tired of the apparent mystification. The opposition used the situation to make capital in the country, and loudly called for a dissolution.
It was plain indeed that the fiscal question itself was ripe for the polls; Board of Trade statistics had been issued in profusion, and the whole case was before the country. But, though Mr Chamberlain declared his desire for an early appeal to the electors, he maintained his parliamentary loyalty to Mr Balfour. There were, moreover, public reasons why a change of government was undesirable. From 1903 onwards the question of army reform had been under discussion, and the government was anxious to get this settled, though in fact Mr Brodrick's and Mr Arnold-Forster's schemes for reorganization failed to obtain any general support. And while foreign affairs were being admirably conducted by Lord Lansdowne, they were critical enough to make it dangerous to contemplate a “swopping of horses.” The Russo-Japanese War might at any moment lead to complications. The exercise by Russian warships of the right of search over British ships was causing great irritation in English commercial circles during 1904; after several incidents had occurred, the stopping of the P. & O. steamer “Malacca” on July 13th in the Red Sea by the Russian volunteer cruiser “Peterburg” led to a storm of indignation, and the sinking of the "Knight Commander" (July 24th) by the Vladivostok squadron intensified the feeling. On the 23rd of October the outrageous firing by the Russian Baltic fleet on the English fishing-fleet off the Dogger Bank in the North Sea was within an ace of causing war. It was not till the 28th that Mr Balfour, speaking at Southampton, was able to announce that the Russian government had expressed regret, and that an international commission would inquire into the facts with a view to the responsible persons being punished. Apart from the importance of seeing the Russo-Japanese War through, there were important negotiations on foot for a renewal or revision of the treaty with Japan; and it was felt that on these grounds it would be a mistake for the government to allow itself to be driven into a premature dissolution, unless it found itself unable to maintain a majority in parliament. At the same time the government's tenure of office was obviously drawing to its close; the usual interpretation of the Septennial Act involved a dissolution either in 1905 or 1906, and the government whips found increased difficulty in keeping a majority at Westminster, since neither the pronounced Chamberlainites nor the convinced free-trade Unionists showed any zeal, and a large number of the uncertain Unionists did not intend to stand again for parliament.
The events of the session of 1905 soon foreshadowed the end. The opposition were determined to raise debates in the House of Commons on the fiscal question, and Mr Balfour was no less determined not to be caught in their trap. These tactics of avoidance reached their culminating point when on one occasion Mr Balfour and his supporters left the House and allowed a motion hostile to tariff reform to be passed nem. con. Though the Scottish Churches Bill, the Unemployed Bill and the Aliens Bill were passed, a complete fiasco occurred over the redistribution proposals, which pleased nobody and had to be withdrawn owing to a blunder as to procedure; and though on the 17th of July a meeting of the party at the foreign office resulted in verbal assurances of loyalty, only two days later the government was caught in a minority of four on the estimates for the Irish Land Commission. For a few days it was uncertain whether they would resign or dissolve, but it was decided to hold on.
The real causes, however, which kept the government in office, were gradually losing their validity. The Russo-Japanese War came to an end; the new offensive and defensive alliance with Japan was signed on the 12th of August; the successful Anglo-French agreement, concluded in April 1904, had brought out a vigorous expression of cordiality between England and France, shown in an enthusiastic exchange of naval visits; and the danger, which threatened in the early summer, of complications with France and Germany over Morocco, was in a fair way of being dispelled by the support given to France by Great Britain. The Liberal leaders had given public pledges of their adhesion to Lord Lansdowne's foreign policy, and the fear of their being unable to carry it on was no longer a factor in the public mind. The end came in November 1905, precipitated by a speech made by Mr Balfour at Newcastle on the 14th, appealing for unity in the party and the sinking of differences, an appeal plainly addressed to Mr Chamberlain, whose supporters—the vast majority of the Unionists—were clamouring for a fighting policy. But Mr Chamberlain was no longer prepared to wait. On the 21st of November at Bristol he insisted on his programme being adopted, and Mr Balfour was compelled to abandon the position he had held with so much tactical dexterity for two years past. Amid Liberal protests in favour of immediate dissolution, he resigned on the 4th of December; and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, being entrusted by the king with the formation of a government, filled his cabinet with a view to a general election in January. The Unionists went to the polls with divided counsels, and sustained a crushing defeat, remarkable nevertheless for the comparative success of the tariff reformers. While Mr Chamberlain had a signal personal triumph in all the divisions of Birmingham, Mr Balfour himself was defeated by a large majority in Manchester.
Being in a miserable minority in parliament (157 Unionists against 379 Liberals, 51 Labour members, and 83 Nationalists), some form of consolidation among the Unionists was immediately necessary, and negotiations took place between Mr Balfour and Mr Chamberlain which resulted in the patching up of an agreement (expressed in a correspondence dated February 14th), and its confirmation at a meeting of the party at Lansdowne House a few days later. The new compact was indicated in Mr Balfour's letter, in which he declared that “fiscal reform is, and must remain, the first constructive work of the Unionist party; its objects are to secure more equal terms of competition for British trade and closer commercial union with the colonies; and while it is at present unnecessary to prescribe the exact methods by which these objects are to be attained, and inexpedient to permit differences of opinion as to these methods to divide the party, though other means are possible, the establishment of a moderate general tariff on manufactured goods, not imposed for the purpose of raising prices, or giving artificial protection against legitimate competition, and the imposition of a small duty on foreign corn, are not in principle objectionable, and should be adopted if shown to be necessary for the attainment of the ends in view or for purposes of revenue.” Mr Balfour's leadership of the whole party was now confirmed; and a seat was found for him in the City of London by the retirement of Mr Gibbs.
The downfall of Mr Balfour's administration, and the necessity of reorganizing the Unionist forces on the basis of the common platform now adopted, naturally represented a fresh departure under his leadership, the conditions of which to some extent depended on the opportunities given to the new opposition by the proceedings of the Radical government (see Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.; and Asquith, H. H.). His own administration had been wrecked, through no initiative of his, by the dissensions over the fiscal question. But his wide range of knowledge and interests, his intellectual finesse, his personal hold over his supporters, his statesmanlike grasp upon imperial problems and his oratorical ability, had been proved to a remarkable degree; and in foreign affairs his tenure of power had been conspicuously successful. He left his country indeed in a position of strength abroad, which it had not held since the Crimean War. His institution of the permanent Committee of Imperial Defence, and of the new Army Council (1904), were reforms of the highest importance, resulting from the report of a “triumvirate” consisting of Lord Esher, Sir John Fisher and Sir George Clarke, appointed in November 1903. The Unionist regime as a whole, however, had collapsed. Its ministers had become “stale.” The heavy taxation of the war years was still retained, to the disgust especially of the income-tax payers; and new issues arose over the Education Act, labour questions, and the introduction of Chinese labour into South Africa (in 1904), which were successfully used against the government in the constituencies. The result was an electoral defeat which indicated, no doubt, a pronounced weakening of Mr Balfour's position in public confidence. This verdict, however, was one based mainly on temporary reasons, which were soon to be overshadowed by the new issues involved in the change of ministry. As a matter of fact, a year of opposition had not passed before his power in the House of Commons, even with so small a party behind him, was once more realized. The immense Radical majority started with a feeling of contempt for the leader who had been rejected at Manchester, but by 1907 he had completely reasserted his individual pre-eminence among parliamentarians. Mr Balfour had never spoken more brilliantly, nor shone more as a debater, than in these years when he had to confront a House of Commons three-fourths of which was hostile. His speech at Birmingham (November 14, 1907), fully accepting the principles of Mr Chamberlain's fiscal policy, proved epoch-making in consolidating the Unionist party—except for a small number of free-traders, like Lord Robert Cecil, who continued to hold out—in favour of tariff reform; and during 1908 the process of recuperation went on, the by-elections showing to a marked degree the increased popular support given to the Unionist candidates. This recovery was due also to the forcible-feeble character of the Radical campaign against the House of Lords, the unpopularity of the Licensing Bill, the failure of the government to arrive at an education settlement, the incapacity of its Irish administration, its apparent domination by the “little navy” section, and its dallying with Socialism in the budget of 1909. The rejection of this budget in December by the House of Lords led to a desperate struggle at the polls in January 1910, but the confident hopes of the Unionists were doomed to disappointment. They won back over a hundred seats, returning 273 strong, but were still in a minority, the Liberals numbering 275, Labour members 40, and Irish Nationalists 82. Mr Balfour himself was elected for the City of London by an enormous majority.
Mr Balfour's other publications, not yet mentioned, include Essays and Addresses (1893) and The Foundations of Belief, being Notes introductory to the Study of Theology (1895). He was made LL.D. of Edinburgh University in 1881; of St Andrews University in 1885; of Cambridge University in 1888; of Dublin and Glasgow Universities in 1891; lord rector of St Andrews University in 1886; of Glasgow University in 1890; chancellor of Edinburgh University in 1891; member of the senate London University in 1888; and D.C.L. of Oxford University in 1891. He was president of the British Association in 1904, and became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1888. He was known from early life as a cultured musician, and became an enthusiastic golf player, having been captain of the Royal and Antient Golf Club of St Andrews in 1894-1895. (H. Ch.)