1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hardie, James Keir

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HARDIE, JAMES KEIR (1856-1915), British Labour politician, was born at Newarthill in Lanarkshire Aug. 15 1856. His father, a ship's carpenter, was frequently out of work owing to illness and the decline of his trade, and his mother had to go out to work soon after her son was born. Being unable to send him to school she taught him reading herself, and when only six years old he had to earn money as a message boy. A year or two later he began work in the mines and earned his living underground for 16 years, often working 12 and 14 hours a day. At 22 years he was acting as local miners' secretary. After victimization in consequence of a strike he obtained work at Cumnock, Ayrshire, and was shortly afterwards elected secretary of the Ayrshire Miners' Association. Advanced Radical ideas attracted him, and before he was 25 years old he was to the fore in political meetings. He helped Henry George in his land agitation and was a staunch co-worker with Robert Smillie in the miners' movement. At the Trade Union Congress in 1887 he attacked the secretary, Mr. Broadbent, for supporting capitalist candidates at elections, thus starting the campaign for Independent Labour representation which he brought into prominence in 1888 by contesting Mid-Lanark as an Independent Labour candidate. From this time on he worked unceasingly for an independent political party for the workers. At the general election of 1892 he was elected for S. West Ham and appeared at Westminster as the first Labour member. In 1893 he presided over the first conference of the Independent Labour party and the following year was elected chairman of the party, an office to which he was reëlected annually until 1899. In 1895 he had lost his seat in Parliament, but in 1900 he was elected for Merthyr Tydfil. In the great strike in the South Wales coal-field in 1898 he addressed, together with Robert Smillie, huge meetings of miners, and in the general election of 1906 he was reëlected to Parliament for Merthyr Tydfil. In addition to his work for the Labour and Socialist movement at home he was one of the most ardent pioneers of international socialism, and visited many countries in his endeavour to bring together the workers of different lands. The collapse of the International on the outbreak of the World War was a great sorrow to him, and is thought to have hastened his death, which took place in 1915 when he had only just completed his fifty-ninth year.