1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cecil, Lord Hugh Richard Heathcote

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1922 Encyclopædia Britannica
Cecil, Lord Hugh Richard Heathcote

CECIL, LORD HUGH RICHARD HEATHCOTE (1869-), English politician (see 24.76), youngest son of the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, was born Oct. 14 1869, and was educated at Eton and University College, Oxford. He obtained a first class in history in 1891 and was elected a fellow of Hertford College. He gained his first insight into politics as one of his father's private secretaries, and was returned to Parliament as a Conservative for Greenwich in 1895. Ecclesiastical questions were those in which he took the keenest interest, and he became an active member of the Church party in the House, resisting the attempts that were made by Nonconformists and Secularists to take the discipline of the Church out of the hands of the archbishops and bishops, and to remove the bishops from their seats in the House of Lords. In these debates he showed remarkable oratorical power and loftiness of tone, and established a reputation which was confirmed and heightened during the progress through Parliament of Mr. Balfour's Education bill of 1902. In an earnest speech on the second reading he maintained that for the final settlement of the religious difficulty there must be coöperation between the Church of England and nonconformity, which was the Church's natural ally; and that the only possible basis of agreement was that every child should be brought up in the belief of its parents. The ideal to be aimed at in education was the improvement of the national character. In the latter stages of the bill's progress he warmly resented an amendment approved by the House and taken over by the Ministry giving the managers, instead of the incumbent of the parish, the control of religious education in non-provided schools. This was not the only point on which he showed considerable independence of the Government of which his cousin Mr. Balfour was the head. He and Mr. Winston Churchill gathered round them a small group of young and able Conservative members, whose independent proceedings attracted some attention in Parliament, and who formed a sort of pale reflection of Lord Randolph Churchill's Fourth party. He dissented from the beginning from Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's policy of tariff reform, pleading in Parliament against any lowering of our idea of empire into that of a “gigantic profit-sharing business.” He took a prominent position among the “Free Food Unionists,” and consequently was attacked by the tariff reformers and lost his seat at Greenwich in 1906. He did not return to Parliament until 1910 when his high character and his academic outlook recommended him, in spite of his hostility to tariff reform, as a fitting member for Oxford, his own university. He threw himself immediately with passion into the struggle against the Ministerial Veto Resolutions, comparing the Asquith Government to “thimble-riggers.” In the next year he was active in the resistance to the Parliament bill, treating Mr. Asquith as a “traitor” for his advice to the Crown to create peers, and taking a prominent part in the disturbance which prevented the Prime Minister from being heard on July 24 1911. But he never quite regained the authority which he had possessed in the House in the early years of the century. He strongly opposed the Welsh Church bill; and he denounced the Home Rule bill, in a picturesque phrase, as reducing Ireland from the status of a wife to that of a mistress — she was to be kept by John Bull, not united to him. During the World War Lord Hugh joined the Flying Corps, becoming a lieutenant R.F.C. in 1915, and in that capacity he severely censured, in debate in 1918, the treatment of Gen. Trenchard by the Government. He also served in 1917 as a member of the commission to enquire into the Mesopotamian expedition. In Parliament he pleaded for lenient treatment of conscientious objectors to the Military Service bills; and endeavoured unsuccessfully to relieve them of disability under the new Reform Act. After the war he took a less active part in politics, but generally found himself in agreement with his brother Lord Robert, whom he followed into Opposition in 1921.

(G. E. B.)