1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Salisbury, Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of
SALISBURY, ROBERT ARTHUR TALBOT GASCOYNE-CECIL, 3rd Marquess of (1830–1903), British statesman, second son of James, 2nd marquess, by his first wife, Frances Mary Gascoyne, was born at Hatfield on the 3rd of February 1830, and was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1850. At Oxford he was an active member of the Union Debating Society. The first few years after leaving the university were spent by Lord Robert Cecil (as he then was) in travel, as far afield as New Zealand; but in 1853 he was returned unopposed to the House of Commons as Conservative member for Stamford, being elected in the same year a fellow of All Souls. He made his maiden speech in Parliament on the 7th of April 1854, in opposition to Lord John Russell’s Oxford University Bill. The speech was marked by scepticism as to the utility of reforms, and Lord Robert prophesied that if the wishes of founders were disregarded, nobody would in future care to found anything. In 1857 he Early years in Parliament.appeared as the author of his first Bill—for establishing the voting-paper system at parliamentary elections; and in the same year he married Georgina Caroline, daughter of Sir Edward Holt Alderson, a baron of the Court of Exchequer, a large share of whose great intellectual abilities she inherited. Lord Robert Cecil continued to be active not only in politics, but, for several years, in journalism, the income he earned by his pen being then a matter of pecuniary importance to him. One of his contemporaries at Oxford had been Thomas Hamber of Oriel, who became editor of the Standard, and during these years Cecil was an occasional contributor of “leaders” to that paper. He also contributed to the Saturday Review, founded in 1855 by his brother-in-law Beresford Hope, and edited by his friend Douglas Cook; not infrequently he wrote for the Quarterly (where, in 1867, he was to publish his famous article on “the Conservative Surrender”); and in 1858 he contributed to Oxford Essays a paper on “The Theories of Parliamentary Reform,” giving expression to the more intellectual and aristocratic antagonism to doctrinaire Liberal views on the subject, while admitting the existence of many anomalies in the existing electoral system. In February of the next year, when Disraeli introduced his Reform Bill with its “fancy franchises,” the member for Stamford was prominent among its critics from the Tory point of view. During the seven years that followed Lord Robert was always ready to defend the Church, or the higher interests of Conservatism and property; and his speeches then, not less than later, showed a caustic quality and a tendency to what became known as “blazing indiscretions.” For example, when the repeal of the paper duty was being discussed in 1861, he asked whether it “could be maintained that a person of any education could learn anything worth knowing from a penny paper”—a question the answer to which has been given by the powerful, highly organized, and admirable Conservative penny press of a subsequent day. A little later he declared the proceedings of the Government “more worthy of an attorney than of a statesman”; and on being rebuked, apologized—to the attorneys. He also charged Lord John Russell with adopting “a sort of tariff of insolence” in his dealings with foreign Powers, strong and weak.
It was not, however, till the death of Palmerston and the removal of Lord John Russell to the House of Lords had brought Cabinet minister: the Franchise question: resignation 1867.Gladstone to the front that Lord Robert Cecil—who became Lord Cranborne by the death of his elder brother on the 14th of June 1865—began to be accepted as a politician of the first rank. His emergence coincided with the opening of the new area in British politics, ushered in by the practical steps taken to extend the parliamentary franchise. On the 12th of March 1866 Gladstone brought forward his measure to establish a £7 franchise in boroughs and a £14 franchise in counties, which were calculated to add 400,000 voters to the existing lists. Lord Cranborne met the Bill with a persistent opposition, his rigorous logic and merciless hostility to clap-trap tending strongly to reinforce the impassioned eloquence of Robert Lowe. But though he attacked the Government Bill both in principle and detail, he did not absolutely commit himself to a position of hostility to Reform of every kind; and on the .defeat of Gladstone’s Ministry no surprise was expressed at his joining the Cabinet of Lord Derby as secretary of state for India, even when it became known that a settlement of the Reform question was part of the Tory programme. The early months of the new Government’s tenure were marked by the incident of the Hyde Park riots; and if there had been members of the Cabinet and party who believed up to that time that the Reform question was not urgent the action of the Reform League and the London populace forced them to a different conclusion. On the 11th of February Disraeli informed the House of Commons that the Government intended to ask its assent to a series of thirteen resolutions; but when, on the 26th of February, the Liberal leaders demanded that the Government should produce a Bill, Disraeli at once consented to do so. The introduction of a Bill was, however, delayed by the resignation of Lord Cranborne, General Peel and Lord Carnarvon. The Cabinet had been considering two alternative measures, widely different in kind and extent, and the final decision between the two was taken in ten minutes (whence the nickname of the “Ten Minutes Bill”) at an informal gathering of the Cabinet held just before Derby was engaged to address a general meeting of the party. At a Cabinet council held on the 23rd of February measure A had been agreed upon, the three doubtful ministers having been persuaded that the checks and safeguards provided were sufficient; in the interval between Saturday and Monday they had come to the conclusion that the checks were inadequate; on Monday morning they had gone to Lord Derby and told him so; at two o’clock the rest of the Cabinet, hastily summoned, had been informed of the new situation, and had there and then, before the meeting at half-past two, agreed, in order to retain their three colleagues, to throw over measure A, and to present measure B to the country as the fruit of their matured and unanimous wisdom. Derby at the meeting, and Disraeli a few hours later in the House of Commons, explained their new measure—a measure based upon a £6 franchise; but their own side did not like it, the Opposition were furious, and the moral sense of the country was revolted by the undisguised adoption of almost the very Bill which the Conservatives had refused to accept from their opponents only a year before. The result was that the Government reverted to measure A, and the three ministers again handed in their resignations. In the debate on the third reading of the Bill, when its passage through the House of Commons without a division was assured, Lord Cranborne showed with caustic rhetoric how the “precautions, guarantees, and securities” with which the Bill had bristled on its second reading had been dropped one after another at the bidding of Gladstone.
In countries where politics are conducted on any other than the give-and-take principles in vogue in England, such a breach as In the House of Lords.that which occurred in 1867 between Lord Cranborne and his former colleagues, especially Disraeli, would have been beyond repair. But Cranborne, though an aristocrat both by birth and by conviction, was not impracticable; moreover, Disraeli, who had himself risen to eminence through invective, admired rather than resented that gift in others; and their common opposition to Gladstone was certain to reunite the two colleagues. In the session of 1868 Gladstone announced that he meant to take up the Irish question, and to deal especially with the celebrated “Upas tree,” of which the first branch was the Established Church. By way of giving full notice to the electorate, he brought in a series of resolutions on this question; and though the attitude adopted by the official Conservatives towards them was not one of serious antagonism, Lord Cranborne vigorously attacked them. This was his last speech in the House of Commons, for on the 12th of April his father died, and he became 3rd marquess of Salisbury. In the House of Lords the new Lord Salisbury’s style of eloquence—terse, incisive and wholly free from false ornament—found an even more appreciative audience than it had met with in the House of Commons. The questions with which he was first called upon to deal were questions in which his interest was keen—the recommendations of the Ritual Commission and, some time later, the Irish Church Suspensory Bill. Lord Salisbury’s argument was that the last session of an expiring parliament was not the time in which so grave a matter as the Irish Church Establishment should be judged or prejudged; that a Suspensory Bill involved the question of disestablishment; and that such a principle could not be accepted by the Lords until the country had pronounced decisively in its favour. Even then there were those who raised the cry that the only business of the House of Lords was to register the decisions of the Commons, and that if they refused to do so it was at their peril. Lord Salisbury met this cry boldly and firmly:—
“When the opinion of your countrymen has declared itself, and you see that their convictions—their firm, deliberate, sustained convictions—are in favour of any course, I do not for a moment deny that it is your duty to yield.”
In the very next session Lord Salisbury was called upon to put his view into practice, and his influence went far to persuade the peers to pass the Irish Church Disestablishment Bill. In his opinion the general election of the autumn of 1868 had been fought on this question; his friends had lost, and there was nothing for them to do but to bow to the necessities of the situation. The story of his conduct in the matter has been told in some fulness in the Life of Archbishop Tait, with whom Salisbury acted, and who throughout those critical weeks played a most important part as mediator between the two extreme parties—those of Lord Cairns (representing Ulster) and Gladstone. October 1869 saw the death of the old Lord Derby, who was still the titular leader of his party; and he was succeeded as leader of the House of Lords by Cairns. For the dignified post of chancellor of the university of Oxford Convocation unanimously chose as Derby’s successor the marquess of Salisbury. Derby had translated the Iliad very well, but his successor was far more able to sympathize with the academic mind and temper. He was at heart a student, and found his best satisfaction in scientific research and in scientific speculation; while still a young man he had made useful contributions to the investigation of the flora of Hertfordshire, and at Hatfield he had his own laboratory, where he was able to satisfy his interest in chemical and electrical research. As regards his connexion with Oxford may be mentioned in particular his appointment, in 1877, of a second University Commission, and his appearance, in September 1894, in the Sheldonian Theatre as president of the British Association.
It is not necessary to dwell at any length upon the part taken by Lord Salisbury between 1869 and 1873 in respect of the other great political measures of Gladstone’s Government—the Disraeli Cabinet of 1874.Irish Land Act, the Act Abolishing Purchase in the Army, Forster’s Education Act, &c. Nor does his attitude towards the Franco-German War of 1870–71 call for any remark; a British leader of Opposition is bound, even more than a minister, to preserve a discreet silence on such occasions. But early in 1874 came the dissolution, suddenly announced in Gladstone’s famous Greenwich letter, with the promise of the abolition of the income-tax. For the first time since 1841 the Conservatives found themselves in office with a large majority in the House of Commons. In Disraeli’s new Cabinet in 1874 Salisbury accepted his old position at the India Office. The first task with which the new secretary of state had to deal was one of those periodical famines which are the great scourge of India; he supported the action of Lord Northbrook, the viceroy, and refused to interfere with private trade by prohibiting the export of grain. This attitude was amply justified, and Lord Salisbury presently declared that the action of the Government had given so much confidence to private traders that, by their means, “grain was pouring into the distressed districts at a greater rate than that which was being carried by the public agency, the amount reaching nearly 2000 tons a day.” The Public Worship Regulation Bill of 1874 was the occasion of a famous passage of arms between Salisbury and his chief. The Commons had inserted an amendment which, on consideration by the Lords, Salisbury opposed, with the remark that it was not for the peers to attend to the “bluster” of the lower House merely because a small majority there had passed the amendment. The new clause was accordingly rejected, and the Commons eventually accepted the situation; but Disraeli, banteringly criticizing Salisbury’s use of the word “bluster,” alluded to him as “a man who does not measure his phrases. He is one who is a great master of gibes and flouts and jeers.”
From the middle of 1876 the Government was occupied with foreign affairs. In regard to the stages of Eastern fever through The Eastern question.which the nation passed between the occurrence of the Bulgarian “atrocities” and the signature of the Treaty of Berlin, the part played by Salisbury was considerable. The excesses of the Bashi-Bazouks took place in the early summer of 1876, and were recorded in long and highly-coloured dispatches to English newspapers; presently there followed Gladstone’s pamphlet on Bulgarian Horrors, his speech on Blackheath and his enunciation of a “bag-and-baggage” policy towards Turkey. The autumn went by, Servia and Montenegro declared war upon Turkey and were in imminent danger of something like extinction. On the 31st of October Russia demanded an armistice, which Turkey granted; and Great Britain immediately proposed a conference at Constantinople, at which the powers should endeavour to make arrangements with Turkey for a general pacification of her provinces and of the inflammable communities adjoining. At this conference Great Britain was represented by Lord Salisbury. It met early in December, taking for its basis the British terms, namely, the status quo ante in Servia and Montenegro; a self-denying ordinance on the part of all the powers; and the independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman empire, together with large administrative reforms assured by guarantees. General Ignatieff, the Russian ambassador, was effusively friendly with the British envoy; but though the philo-Turkish party in England professed themselves scandalized, Salisbury made no improper concessions to Russia, and departed in no way from the agreed policy of the British
Cabinet. On the 20th of January the conference broke up, Turkey having declared its recommendations inadmissible; and Europe withdrew to await the inevitable declaration of war. Very early in the course of that war the intentions of Great Britain were clearly indicated in a despatch of Lord Derby to the British representative at St Petersburg, which announced that so long as the struggle concerned Turkish interests alone Great Britain would be neutral, but that such matters as Egypt, the Suez Canal, the regulations affecting the passage of the Dardanelles, and the possession of Constantinople itself would be regarded as matters to which she could not be indifferent. For some nine months none of these British interests appeared to be threatened, nor had Lord Salisbury’s own department to concern itself very directly with the progress of the belligerents. Once or twice, indeed, the Indian secretary committed himself to statements which laid him open to a good deal of attack. as when he rebuked an alarmist by bidding him study the Central Asian question “in large maps.” But with the advance of Russia through Bulgaria and across the Balkans, British anxiety grew. In mid-December explanations were asked from the Russian Government as to their intentions with regard to Constantinople. On the 23rd of January the Cabinet ordered the fleet to sail to the Dardanelles. Lord Carnarvon resigned, and Lord Derby handed in his resignation, but withdrew it. The Treaty of San Stefano was signed on the 3rd of March; and three weeks later, when its full text became known, the Succeeds Lord Derby as Foreign Minister.Cabinet decided upon measures which finally induced Lord Derby, at the end of the month, to retire from the Foreign Office, his place being immediately filled by Lord Salisbury. The new foreign secretary at once issued the famous “Salisbury circular” to the British representatives abroad, which appeared in the newspapers on the 2nd of April. This elaborate and dignified State paper was at once a clear exposition of British policy, and practically an invitation to Russia to reopen the negotiations for a European congress. These negotiations, indeed, had been proceeding for several weeks past; but Russia having declared that she would only discuss such points as she pleased, the British Cabinet had withdrawn, and the matter for the time was at an end. The bulk of the document consisted of an examination of the Treaty of San Stefano and its probable effects, Lord Salisbury justifying such an examination on the ground that as the position of Turkey and the other countries affected had been settled by Europe in the Treaty of Paris in 1856, the powers which signed that treaty had the right and the duty to see that no modifications of it should be made without their consent.
The effect of the circular was great and immediate. At home the Conservatives were encouraged, and many moderate At Berlin Congress.Liberals rallied to the Eastern policy of the Government. Abroad it seemed as if the era of divided councils was over, and the Russian Government recognized that the circular meant either a congress or war with Great Britain. For the latter alternative it was by no means prepared, and very soon negotiations were reopened, which led to the meeting of the congress at Berlin on the 13th of June. The history of that famous gathering and of its results is narrated under Europe. Lord Beaconsfield on two or three subsequent occasions referred to the important part that his colleague had played in the negotiations, and he was not using merely the language of politeness. Rumours had appeared in the London press as to a supposed Anglo-Russian agreement that had been signed between Salisbury and the Russian ambassador, Count Shuvaloff, and these rumours or statements were described by the foreign secretary in the House of Lords, just before he left for Berlin, as “wholly unauthentic.” But on the 14th of June what purported to be the full text of the agreement was published by the Globe newspaper through a certain Charles Marvin, at that time employed in occasional transcribing work at the Foreign Office, and afterwards known by some strongly anti-Russian books on the Central Asian question. Besides the general inconvenience of the disclosure, the agreement, which stipulated that Batum and Kars might be annexed by Russia, made it impossible for the congress to insist upon Russia entirely withdrawing her claim to Batum, though at the time of the meeting of the congress it was known to some of the negotiators that she was not unwilling to do so. In one respect Salisbury’s action at the congress was unsuccessful. Much as he disliked Gladstone’s sentimentalism, he was not without a certain sentimentalism of his own, and at the Berlin Congress this took the form of an unexpected and, as it happened, useless pushing of the claims of Greece. But in the main Salisbury must be held to deserve, almost equally with his great colleague, the credit for the Berlin settlement. Great, however, as was the work done at Berlin, and marked the relief to all Europe which was caused by the signing of the treaty, much work, and of no pleasant kind, remained for the British Foreign Office and for the Indian Government before the Beaconsfield parliament ended and the Government had to render up its accounts to the nation. Russia, foreseeing a possible war with Great Britain, had during the spring of 1878 redoubled her activity in Central Asia, and, almost at the very time that the treaty was being signed, her mission was received at Kabul by the Amir Sher Ali. Out of the Amir’s refusal to receive a counterbalancing British mission there grew the Afghan War; and though he had ceased to control the India Office, Salisbury was naturally held responsible for some of the preliminary steps which, in the judgment of the Opposition, had led to these hostilities. But the Liberals entirely failed to fix upon Salisbury the blame for a series of events which was generally seen to be inevitable. A defence of the foreign policy of the Government during the year which followed the Berlin Treaty was made by Salisbury in a speech at Manchester (October 1879), which had a great effect throughout Europe. In it he justified the occupation of Cyprus, and approved the beginnings of a league of central Europe for preserving peace.
In the spring of 1880 the general election overthrew Beaconsfield’s Leader of Conservative Party.Government and replaced Gladstone in power, and the country entered upon five eventful years, which were to see the consolidation of the Parnellite party, the reign of outrage in Ireland, disasters in Zululand and the Transvaal, war in Egypt, a succession of costly mistakes in the Sudan, and the final collapse of Gladstone’s Government on a trifling Budget question. The defeat of 1880 greatly depressed Beaconsfield, who till then had really believed in that “hyperborean” theory upon which he had acted in 1867—the theory that beyond and below the region of democratic storm and violence was to be found a region of peaceful conservatism and of a dislike of change. After the rude awakening of April 1880 Beaconsfield seems to have lost heart and hope, and to have ceased to believe that wealth, birth and education would count for much in future in England. Salisbury, who on Beaconsfield’s death a year later was chosen, after the claims of Cairns had been withdrawn, as leader of the Conservative peers (Sir Stafford Northcote continuing to lead the Opposition in the lower House), was not so disposed to counsels of despair. After the Conservative reaction had come in 1886, he was often taunted with pessimism as regards the results, and he certainly spoke on more than one occasion in a way which appeared to justify the caricatures which appeared of him in the Radical press in his character of Hamlet; but in the days of Liberal ascendancy Salisbury was confident that the tide would turn. We may pass briefly over the years of Opposition between 1880 and 1885; the only policy that could then wisely be followed by the Conservative leaders was that of giving their opponents sufficient rope. In 1884 a new Reform Bill was introduced, extending household suffrage to the counties; this was met in the Lords by a resolution, moved by Cairns, that the peers could not pass it unaccompanied by a Redistribution Bill. The Government, therefore, withdrew their measure. In the summer and autumn there was a good deal of agitation; but in November a redistribution scheme was settled between the leaders of both parties, and the Bill passed. When, in the summer of 1885, Gladstone resigned, it became necessary for the country to know whether Salisbury or Northcote was the real Conservative leader; and the Queen settled the matter by at once sending for Lord Salisbury, who became prime minister for the first time in 1885.
The “Forwards” among the Conservatives, headed by Lord Randolph Churchill, brought so much pressure to bear that Prime Minister, 1885.Northcote was induced to enter the House of Lords as earl of Iddesleigh, while Sir Michael Hicks Beach was made leader of the House of Commons, Lord Randolph Churchill secretary for India, and Mr Arthur Balfour president of the Local Government Board. The new Government had only to prepare for the general election in the autumn. The ministerial programme was put forward by Salisbury on the 7th of October in an important speech addressed to the Union of Conservative Associations assembled at Newport, in Monmouthshire; and in this he outlined large reforms in local government, poured scorn upon Mr Chamberlain’s Radical policy of “three acres and a cow,” but promised cheap land transfer, and opposed the disestablishment of the Church as a matter of life or death to the Conservative party. In this Lord Salisbury was declaring war against what seemed to be the danger should Mr Chamberlain’s “unauthorized programme” succeed; while the comparative slightness of his references to Ireland showed that he had no more suspicion than anybody else of the event which was about to change the whole face of British politics, to break up the Liberal party and to change the most formidable of the advanced Radicals into an ally and a colleague. The general election took place, and there were returned to parliament 335 Liberals, 249 Conservatives and 86 Home Rulers; so that if the last two parties had combined, they would have exactly tied with the Liberals. The Conservative Government met parliament, and after a short time were put into a minority of 79 on a Radical land motion, brought in by Mr Chamberlain’s henchman, Mr Jesse Collings. Mr Gladstone’s Unionism: Prime Minister, 1886.return to office, and his announcement of a Bill giving a separate parliament to Ireland, were quickly followed by the secession of the Unionist Liberals; the defeat of the Bill; an appeal to the country; and the return of the Unionist party to power with a majority of 118. Salisbury at once offered to make way for Lord Hartington, but the suggestion that the latter should form a Government was declined; and the Conservatives took office alone, with an Irish policy which might be summed up, perhaps, in Salisbury’s words as “twenty years of resolute government.” For a few months, until just before his sudden death on the 12th of January 1887, Lord Iddesleigh was foreign secretary; but Salisbury, who meantime had held the post of lord privy seal, then returned to the Foreign Office. Meanwhile the increasing friction between him and Lord Randolph Churchill, who, amid many qualms on the part of more old-fashioned Conservatives, had become chancellor of the exchequer and leader of the House of Commons, had led to the latter’s resignation, which, to his own surprise, was accepted; and from that date Salisbury’s effective primacy in his own party was unchallenged.
Only the general lines of Salisbury’s later political career need here be sketched. As a consequence of the practical 1886–1902.monopoly of political power enjoyed by the Unionist party after the Liberal disruption of 1886—for even in the years 1892–1895 the situation was dominated by the permanent Unionist majority in the House of Lords—Salisbury’s position became unique. These were the long-looked-for days of Conservative reaction, of which he had never despaired. The situation was complicated, so far as Salisbury personally was concerned, by the coalition with the Liberal Unionists, which was confirmed in 1895 by the inclusion of the duke of Devonshire, Mr Chamberlain, and other Liberal Unionists in the Cabinet. But though it appeared anomalous that old antagonists like Lord Salisbury and Mr Chamberlain should be working together in the same ministry, the prime minister’s position was such that he could disregard a superficial criticism which paid too little heed to his political faculty and his patriotic regard for the requirements of the situation. Moreover, the practical work of reconciling Conservative traditions with domestic reform depended rather on Salisbury’s nephew, Mr Balfour, who led the House of Commons, than on Salisbury, who devoted himself almost entirely to foreign affairs. The new Conservative movement, moreover, in the country at large, was, in any case, of a more constructive type than Salisbury himself was best fitted to lead, and he was not the real source of the political inspiration even of the Conservative wing of the Unionist party during this period. He began to stand to some extent outside party and above it, a moderator with a keenly analytic and rather sceptical mind, but still the recognized representative of the British empire in the councils of the world, and the trusted adviser of his sovereign. Though himself the last man to be selected as the type of a democratic politician—for his references to extensions of popular government, even when made by his own party, were full of mild contempt—Salisbury gradually acquired a higher place in public opinion than that occupied by any contemporary statesman. His speeches—which, though carelessly composed, continued to blaze on occasion with their old fire and their somewhat mordant cynicism—were weightier in tone, and became European events. Without the genius of Disraeli or the personal magnetism of Gladstone, he yet inspired the British public with a quiet confidence that under him things would not go far wrong, and that he would not act rashly or unworthily of his country. Even political opponents came to look on his cautious and balanced conservatism, and his intellectual aloofness from interested motives or vulgar ambition, as standing between them and something more distasteful. Moreover, in the matter of foreign affairs his weight was supreme. He had lived to become, as was indeed generally recognized, the most experienced working diplomatist in Europe. His position in this respect was shown in nothing better than in his superiority to criticism. In foreign affairs many among his own party regarded him as too much inclined to “split the difference” and to make “graceful concessions”—as in the case of the cession of Heligoland to, Germany-in which it was complained that Great Britain got the worst of the bargain. But though occasionally, as in the withdrawal of British ships from Port Arthur in 1898, such criticism became acute, the plain fact of the preservation of European peace, often in difficult circumstances, reconciled the public to his conduct of affairs. His patience frequently justified itself, notably in the case of British relations with the United States, which were for a moment threatened by President Cleveland’s message concerning Venezuela in 1895. And though his loyalty to the European Concert in connexion with Turkey’s dealings with Armenia and Crete in 1895–1898 proved irritatingly ineffectual—the pace of the concert, as Lord Salisbury explained, being rather like that of a steam-roller—no alternative policy could be contemplated as feasible in any other statesman’s hands. Salisbury’s personal view of the new situation created by the methods of the sultan of Turkey was indicated not only by a solemn and unusual public warning addressed to the sultan in a speech at Brighton, but also by his famous remark that in the Crimean War Great Britain had “put her money on the wrong horse.” Among his most important strokes of diplomacy was the Anglo-German agreement of 1890, delimiting the British and German spheres of influence in Africa. The South African question from 1896 onwards was a matter for the Colonial Office, and Salisbury left it in Mr Chamberlain’s hands.
A peer premier must inevitably leave many of the real problems of democratic government to his colleagues in the House of Commons. In the Upper House Lord Salisbury was paramount. Yet while vigorously opposing the Radical agitation for the abolition of the House of Lords, he never interposed a non possumus to schemes of reform. He was always willing to consider plans for its improvement, and in May 1888 himself introduced a bill for reforming it and creating life peers; but he warned reformers that the only result must be to make the House stronger. To abolish it, on the other hand, would be to take away a necessary safeguard for protecting “Philip drunk” by an appeal to “Philip sober.”
Lord Salisbury suffered a severe loss by the death in 1900 of his wife, whose influence with her husband had been great, as her devotion had been unswerving. Her protracted illness was one among several causes, including his own occasional ill-health, which after 1895 made him leave as much as possible of the work of political leadership to his principal colleagues-Mr Arthur Balfour more than once acting as foreign secretary for several weeks While his uncle stayed abroad. But for some years it was felt that his attempt to be both prime minister and foreign secretary was a mistake; and after the election of 1900 Salisbury handed over the seals of the foreign office to Lord Lansdowne, remaining himself at the head of the government as lord privy seal. In 1902, upon the conclusion of peace in South Africa, he felt that the time had come to retire from office altogether; and on the 11th of July his resignation was accepted by the king, and he was succeeded as prime minister by Mr Arthur Balfour.
From this moment he remained in the political background, and his ill-health gradually increased. He died at Hatfield on the 22nd of August 1903, and was succeeded in the marques sate by his eldest son Lord Cranborne (b. 1861), who entered the house of commons for the Darwen division of Lancashire (188 5-1892) and since 1893 had been member for Rochester. The new marquess had been under-secretary for foreign affairs since 1900, and in October 1903 he became lord privy seal in Mr Balfour's ministry. Of the other four sons, Lord Hugh Cecil (b. 1869) became a prominent figure in parliament as Conservative member for Greenwich (189 5-1906), first as an ardent and eloquent High Churchman in connexion with the debates on education, &c., and then as one of the leaders of the Free-Trade Unionists opposing Mr Chamberlain; and his elder brother Lord Robert Cecil (b. 1864), who had at first devoted himself to the bar and become a K.C., entered parliament in 1906 for Marylebone, holding views in sympathy with those of Lord Hugh, who had been defeated through the opposition of a Tariff Reform Unionist in a triangular contest at Greenwich, which gave the victory to the Radical candidate. In the elections of January 1910 Lord Robert Cecil resigned his candidature for Marylebone, owing to the strong opposition of the Tariff Reformers, which threatened to divide the party and lose the seat; he stood for Blackburn as a Unionist Free Trader and was defeated. On the other hand Lord Hugh Cecil was returned for Oxford University in place of the Rt. Hon. j. G. Talbot. Lord Hugh's candidature, which was announced in 1909 simultaneously with the resignation of the sitting member, was opposed by many who disagreed with his fiscal views and his attitude on Church questions; but it was found that he had the support of the great majority of the electors, and he was ultimately returned unopposed.