1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Long, Walter Hume Long, 1st Viscount

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1922 Encyclopædia Britannica
Long, Walter Hume Long, 1st Viscount
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LONG, WALTER HUME LONG, 1st Viscount (1854- ), English statesman, born at Bath July 13 1854, was the eldest son of Richard Penruddocke Long, of Rood Ashton, Wilts., and Dolforgan, Montgomeryshire, and his wife, Charlotte, daughter of the Right Hon. W. W. Fitzwilliam Hume Dick. He was educated at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford. Being the representative of an old county family with a tradition of Parliamentary service it was natural that he should contemplate a political career. He entered the House of Commons in 1880 as Conservative member for N. Wilts., and sat in every Parliament since till he was created a peer in May 1921, though he changed his constituency several times. The Reform Act of 1884 abolished his first constituency, so in 1885 he became member for the Devizes division of the county. From 1892 to 1900 he sat for W. Derby, Liverpool, from 1900-6 for S. Bristol, from 1906-10 for Dublin county, S., from 1910-18 for the Strand division, of London, and after 1918 for St. George's, Westminster. He early showed interest in, and knowledge of, questions of local administration, especially in country districts; and was accordingly appointed Parliamentary secretary of the Local Government Board in 1886. The industry, capacity and common sense which he showed in his six years' tenure of this office marked him out for promotion when his party returned to power. Accordingly in 1895 he became president of the Board of Agriculture, remaining for five years, and then for the five following years he was president of the Local Government Board. His administration at the Board of Agriculture was marked by the stamping out of hydrophobia through the strict enforcement of a muzzling order for dogs, and the tenacity and resolution which he showed in carrying his policy through, in the face of a violent agitation by many dog-owners and dog-lovers, raised him greatly in public esteem.

Hitherto Mr. Long, despite his administrative efficiency, had not counted for much in the main party struggle. But in March 1905 he emerged into the limelight, being chosen by Mr. Balfour to succeed Mr. Wyndham, after the latter's breach with Irish Unionism, as Chief Secretary for Ireland. He at once restored Unionist confidence by reducing the under-secretary, Sir Antony MacDonnell, afterwards Lord MacDonnell, to definite subordination to himself as the responsible minister, and by the firmness with which he proceeded to enforce the law and repress agrarian intimidation. At the same time he proclaimed that his policy was to redress legitimate grievances, and to give everybody justice and fair play. The impression which he produced in Ireland in the few months before Mr. Balfour's resignation was so considerable that he, an Englishman, was returned to Parliament in the general election of 1906 as member for the S. Dublin division. In the years of Opposition which followed he proved a vigorous opponent of Mr. Birrell's policy of laisser-faire in Ireland and of Mr. Lloyd George's proposals with regard to the land, and a more benevolent critic of the Government Old-Age Pension scheme and of Mr. Burns's administration at the Local Government Board. When Mr. Balfour, resigned the leadership of the Unionist party in Nov. 1911 he was the candidate of the more conservative branch of the party; but both he and Mr. Austen Chamberlain, his rival, agreed to stand aside in favour of Mr. Bonar Law. In the years immediately following Mr. Long was not very prominent in Parliament, though he took his share in the determined opposition to the Home Rule bill. But he had the respect of all-parties, as the chief representative in public life of old-fashioned conservatism and the “agricultural interest.”

With the other Unionist leaders he joined the first Coalition Ministry in 1915, returning to his old post of president of the Local Government Board. In that capacity he carried bills for national registration for suspension of municipal elections, and for restriction of the raising of rent on small houses, and took a leading part in pressing upon the House the military service bills of 1916. In the second Coalition Ministry he was Secretary of State for the Colonies. He had been hitherto a decided opponent of woman suffrage, but he was converted by the services of women during the World War, and in 1917 he introduced in the House of Commons the Franchise bill, which became law in the following year, and under which women over 30 obtained the franchise. When Mr. Lloyd George reconstructed his Ministry in the beginning of 1919 Mr. Long became First Lord of the Admiralty and had the difficult task of supervising the reduction to a peace basis of the gigantic navy which had been built up during the war. He refused to be rushed into precipitate action either by the challenge of the United States and Japan, who both started large schemes of shipbuilding, or by the clamour of the enthusiasts for air-warfare who proclaimed that battleships had become useless, but announced in the Estimates of 1921 a moderate programme of four new battleships. For some years his health had been periodically unsatisfactory, and in the spring of 1921 he resigned office. Mr. Bonar Law's breakdown in health occurred immediately afterwards, and Mr. Long heartily supported the election of his old rival, Mr. Austen Chamberlain, to the leadership of the Unionist party in the House of Commons. A few months later he was raised to the House of Lords, amid general approval, as Viscount Long of Wraxall.

He had married in 1878 Lady Doreen Boyle, daughter of the 9th Earl of Cork and Orrery. His elder son, Brig.-Gen. Walter Long, C.M.G., D.S.O., served in the S. African War, and fell in action in France in Jan. 1917 at the head of his brigade.

(G. E. B.)