Herbert Henry Asquith
Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, KG, PC, KC, FRS (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928), generally known as H. H. Asquith, was a British statesman and Liberal politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. He was the last prime minister to lead a majority Liberal government, and he played a central role in the design and passage of major liberal legislation and a reduction of the power of the House of Lords. In August 1914, Asquith took Great Britain and the British Empire into the First World War. In 1915, his government was vigorously attacked for a shortage of munitions and the failure of the Gallipoli Campaign. He formed a coalition government with other parties, but failed to satisfy critics. As a result, he was forced to resign in December 1916, and he never regained power.
After attending Balliol College, Oxford, he became a successful barrister. In 1886 he was the Liberal candidate for East Fife, a seat he held for over thirty years. In 1892 he was appointed as Home Secretary in Gladstone's fourth ministry, remaining in the post until the Liberals lost the 1895 election. In the decade of opposition that followed Asquith became a major figure in the party, and when the Liberals regained power under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 1905 Asquith was named Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1908 Asquith succeeded him as prime minister. The Liberals were determined to advance their reform agenda. An impediment to this was the House of Lords, which rejected the People's Budget of 1909. Meanwhile the South Africa Act 1909 passed. Asquith called an election for January 1910, and the Liberals won, though were reduced to a minority government. After another general election in December 1910 he gained passage of the Parliament Act 1911, allowing a bill three times passed by the Commons in consecutive sessions to be enacted regardless of the Lords. Asquith was less successful in dealing with Irish Home Rule. Repeated crises led to gun running and violence, verging on civil war.
When Britain declared war on Germany in response to the German invasion of Belgium, high profile conflicts were suspended regarding Ireland and women's suffrage. Although more of a committee chair than a dynamic leader, he oversaw national mobilisation; the dispatch of the British Expeditionary Force to the Western Front, the creation of a mass army, and the development of an industrial strategy designed to support the country's war aims. The war became bogged down and the demand rose for better leadership. He was forced to form a coalition with the Conservatives and Labour early in 1915. He was weakened by his own indecision over strategy, conscription, and financing. David Lloyd George replaced him as prime minister in December 1916. They became bitter enemies and fought for control of the fast-declining Liberal Party. His role in creating the modern British welfare state (1906–1911) has been celebrated, but his weaknesses as a war leader and as a party leader after 1914 have been highlighted by historians.
The following is a transcription from the 12th Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica (1922)
ASQUITH, HERBERT HENRY (1852-), English statesman (see 2.769), had been confirmed in power as Prime Minister by the general election of Jan. 1910, but the political situation resulting from it was still one of unexampled difficulty. On several occasions during the ensuing parliamentary session, he put off importunate questioners, with regard to the policy of the Ministry, by saying that they had better “wait and see.” The phrase was remembered, and was often used by critics in subsequent years, especially during the World War, as a compendious description of what they considered to be the procrastinating attitude of the Prime Minister and his Government. But there was no procrastination in Mr. Asquith's attitude in the autumn, as soon as the conference arranged between the opposing political leaders on the constitutional crisis had definitely failed. He and his Cabinet at once took decisive measures to get it settled in their own sense. On Nov. 15 — the day Parliament reassembled for its autumn session — they advised the Crown to dissolve, but only on the understanding that “in the event of the policy of the Government being approved by an adequate majority in the new House of Commons His Majesty will be ready to exercise his constitutional powers, which may involve the prerogative of creating peers, if needed, to secure that effect shall be given to the decision of the country.” The King reluctantly consented, and the dissolution was announced on Nov. 18; but the terms of the understanding which had been arrived at between the Crown and its advisers were not revealed till the crisis in the following summer. The second general election of 1910 was held in Dec.; and the verdict of the preceding Jan. was almost precisely confirmed.
Having, with the aid of Labour and the Nationalists, who were both thoroughly with him on the constitutional issue, a clear majority of about 120, the Prime Minister went straight ahead with the Parliament bill, which had two main objects: to take from the Lords all power of either rejecting or amending a Money bill, and to provide that a bill passed in three successive sessions by the Commons should become law without the Lords' assent. He carried the second reading in March with the closure, defeated the stubborn resistance of the Unionists in committee by aid of the “kangaroo” closure, and obtained the third reading, on May 15 by an unbroken majority of 121. He did not conceal in the debate that the first use to which the new powers conferred by the bill on the Commons would be put was to pass the Irish Home Rule bill, followed by the rest of the controversial Liberal programme. When the Lords, after allowing the second reading to pass, introduced by an enormous majority an amendment (amongst others) providing for the submission to a popular vote of certain fundamental measures, he forthwith announced, in a letter to Mr. Balfour on the day (July 20) on which the amended bill was read a third time in the Lords, that the Government would ask the House of Commons to disagree with the amendments, adding: —
- In the circumstances, should the necessity arise, the Government will advise the King to exercise his prerogative to secure the passing into law of the bill in substantially the same form in which it left the House of Commons, and His Majesty has been pleased to signify that he will consider it his duty to accept and act on that advice.
This, the first public announcement of the King's consent to the creation of sufficient peers to pass the bill, produced an explosion among the Opposition; and the Unionist hotheads, among whom Lord Hugh Cecil and Mr. F. E. Smith (afterwards Lord Birkenhead) were conspicuous, shouted “Traitor” at Mr. Asquith in the House of Commons, and refused to let him deliver the speech in which he was to explain his policy. But he had effected his object of dividing the Unionist party; and eventually a sufficient number of peers followed their leaders in bowing to force majeure and allowing the bill to pass rather than risk the degradation of their House by an unlimited creation (see English History). Mr. Asquith welcomed the vote of censure which the Opposition promoted in the House of Commons; gave an account of the understanding entered into with the King before the last dissolution; pointed out that the Parliament bill had been twice approved by the electorate in principle and once in its substantial details, that there was no alternative Government possible and no responsible minister at its head would advise another general election with any hope of a different result. The vote of censure was repelled by the usual Government majority; and, though Mr. Asquith's course had profoundly exasperated his opponents, the direct and unflinching manner in which he had carried his policy through raised his own parliamentary reputation and strengthened his Government.
Having cleared the way by the Parliament Act, which he described as “a landmark in political development,” the Prime Minister pressed forward, by frequent use of the closure, in the three following sessions — of 1912, 1913, and 1914 — the two bills on which Liberal partisans had specially set their heart, the Irish Home Rule bill, and the Welsh Disestablishment bill. Of the Home Rule bill he took the main charge himself, advocating it as being strictly in accordance with the spirit and tendency of imperial development. In July 1912 he went across to Dublin, and at a great Nationalist meeting in the Theatre Royal he described the intention of the Government to be to unite the English and Irish democracies. While speaking as a rule respectfully of Ulster, and offering to strengthen the safeguards for her welfare contained in the bill, he resolutely refused, till the autumn of 1913, to consider the possibility of her exclusion even for a time. But after the signing of the Ulster covenant, the enrolment and drilling of thousands of volunteers, and the establishment by Sir Edward Carson of a “provisional Government” — with none of which operations did he think it wise to interfere — he realized that, unless Ulster were placated, the new Home Rule constitution could not be set up without something like civil war. Accordingly, at Ladybank, in Oct. 1913, he said that he desired a settlement by consent, and invited a frank interchange of views; but he stipulated that there must be a subordinate Irish Parliament and an executive responsible to it in Dublin, and that no insuperable bar must be erected to Irish unity. In pursuance of this policy, he announced early in the following March, when moving for the third time the second reading of the Home Rule bill, that the Government would propose that any county in Ulster might vote itself out of the bill for a period of six years. This did not at all satisfy the Unionists, who demanded that Ulster should be omitted till Parliament otherwise ordered. At this moment occurred the incident at the Curragh, where military officers, when questioned on their views, offered their resignations rather than undertake military operations against Ulster. The War Office prevailed on them to withdraw their resignations by an assurance that there was no intention of crushing political opposition to Home Rule; a kind of bargain which the Liberal party and the Liberal press vehemently condemned and the Government itself repudiated. General Seely, the War Minister, immediately resigned, and Mr. Asquith met this situation by himself assuming the seals of the Secretary of State. He laid it down that it was not right to ask an officer what he would do in a remote and hypothetical contingency, still less could it be right for an officer to ask a Government to give him any assurance. Such a claim, once admitted, would put the Government and Parliament at the mercy of the military. He would administer the War Office, he told his constituents, in the spirit of Chatham, who said, “The army will hear nothing of politics from me, and in return I expect to hear nothing of politics from the army.” These events raised passions on both sides, but the Prime Minister refused to be moved from his offer. The amending bill was introduced in the Lords, but was transformed by Unionist amendments into one for the permanent exclusion of Ulster — a change which the Government refused to accept. Mr. Asquith then, in a final effort for settlement by consent, risked his popularity with Radicals and Labour men by advising the King to invite the leaders of the English and Irish parties to a small conference at Buckingham Palace. When this conference, too, after a four days' session, failed on July 24, he was relieved of his difficulty as to the next step by the outbreak of the World War.
In no other domestic measures of his Government during this period had Mr. Asquith taken so prominent and personal a part as in the Parliament Act and the Home Rule bill. But he was, of course, mainly responsible for the drastic use of the closure, in various forms, without which, indeed, it might have been impossible to get the most contentious of the Government bills through at all. He was active in efforts, first to avert, and then to compose the great coal strike of the early spring of 1912. From the third week in Feb. till the middle of March he was in constant conference with both owners and miners; and when conciliation failed he finally introduced and passed a Coal-mines (minimum wage) bill, which brought about a settlement at Easter. With the transport strike in the summer of 1912 he declined to interfere. His various franchise bills came to naught owing to the difficulties introduced by the claim of a large body of women to the suffrage. Though he was prepared to leave that thorny question to be decided freely by the House, he was himself, unlike the majority of his colleagues, opposed to giving women the vote, and was, accordingly, in the last few years before the war, frequently subjected to rudeness and insult by the militant section of suffragists. While in the domestic legislation which he promoted, especially after he was compelled by his own party's electoral losses in 1910 to rely largely on Nationalist and Labour votes, Mr. Asquith leaned to the Radical side, in foreign and imperial policy and in matters of defence he acted up to the Liberal Imperialist principles of which he had been the standard-bearer while in opposition. He took a keen interest in his duties as chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence; he strongly supported Lord Haldane in his efforts to make the army more efficient as a striking force; he steadily backed first Mr. McKenna, and afterwards Mr. Churchill, in their extensive programmes, which increased the navy estimates from some £32,000,000 in 1908 to nearly £52,000,000 in 1914; he was the first Prime Minister to preside in a colonial, now become an imperial, conference; and while, owing to his Free-Trade principles, he rejected colonial or imperial preference, he pushed forward organized schemes for imperial defence. The experience of the World War, however, seemed to show that he made a mistake in accepting the Declaration of London. In foreign affairs he gave consistent and strenuous support to Sir Edward Grey, who had continued to develop the national policy previously laid down by Mr. Balfour and Lord Lansdowne. This was fully recognized by the Opposition, who supported him on these questions against the sporadic attacks of Radicals, Nationalists, and Labour men. Whenever Mr. Asquith had to speak to the world as the nation's mouthpiece, in Parliament or at Guildhall, he produced a weighty impression by his clearness and candour in statement, and his dignified and sonorous phraseology.
When the world crisis came in the end of July 1914, he had to translate speech into action, with a hesitating Cabinet, and a still more hesitating party, behind him. He, like Sir Edward Grey, had been lulled into comparative optimism by the speciously reasonable attitude of Germany in the Balkan negotiations; and he was confronted by a strong section in the Cabinet, including Mr. Lloyd George, who at first refused to see cause, in the threat to France, for British armed intervention. On the other hand, he had the tender of support from the Unionists in continuation of their foreign policy since 1905. In the end, the violation of Luxemburg and Belgium by Germany solved all his difficulties, and enabled him to preserve his Cabinet intact save for the perhaps inevitable resignations of Lord Morley and Mr. Burns; but even before this happened it was becoming clear that he and Sir Edward Grey would take their stand by the side of France. His public language was eminently worthy of the occasion. On July 30 he told the House of Commons that the Amending bill must be postponed. The issues of peace and war, he said, were hanging in the balance; it was of vital importance that Great Britain, who had no direct interests at stake, should present a united front, and speak and act with the authority of an undivided nation. He left to the Foreign Secretary the duty of explaining the diplomatic position on Monday Aug. 3; but he himself moved, on Aug. 5, the day after war had begun, the first vote of credit for £100,000,000, maintaining that “the war has been forced upon us.” The fight was, first, to fulfil a solemn international obligation; secondly, to vindicate the principle that small nationalities were not to be crushed, in defiance of international good faith, by the arbitrary will of a strong and overmastering power. No nation, he said, ever entered into a great struggle with a clearer conscience and a stronger conviction that it was fighting for principles vital to the civilized world.
In response to a public demand, peremptorily voiced in the press, he now brought Lord Kitchener, who was on the point of starting back, after a brief visit home, to resume his duties as British agent in Egypt, into the Cabinet as Minister of War, surrendering to him the seals which he had held himself for over four months, and he gave him a wide discretion in conducting the war by land. The conduct of the war remained ultimately with the Cabinet, but its day-to-day direction was practically carried on by Mr. Asquith, Lord Kitchener, and Mr. Churchill, with the assistance of their technical advisers. As Prime Minister, too, Mr. Asquith must be accorded his full share in the important measures taken by the Cabinet at this time, such as the financial moratorium, the prompt despatch of the expeditionary force, the enrolment of Kitchener's army, the glad acceptance of colonial help, the decision to bring over native troops from India, and the Defence of the Realm Act. He, however, strained his relations with the Unionists by determining to pass the Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment bills under the Parliament Act, only providing that neither should come into effect till after the war, and that special provision should be made for Ulster, which should in no circumstances be coerced. He undertook a series of speeches in the autumn, notable alike for patriotic vigour and for lofty eloquence, in order to educate the nation as regards the objects and necessity of the war, and to stimulate recruiting. At the Guildhall on Sept. 4 he said that this was not merely a material but a spiritual conflict, and recalled how England had in the Napoleonic Wars responded to Pitt's dying appeal to her to save Europe by her example. At Edinburgh, on Sept. 18, he said that the German creed of material force was a purblind philosophy, and that, while the British task might take months or years, the economic, monetary, and military and naval position was encouraging. At Dublin, on Sept. 25, he appealed to Ireland to take her due share in a war which was being fought in the interests of small nations. At Cardiff, on Oct. 2, he revealed the fact that, in 1912, the Cabinet had formally notified the German Government that Great Britain would “neither make nor join in any unprovoked attack on Germany,” but that Germany had demanded in response a British pledge of absolute neutrality if she were engaged in war — a pledge which, of course, Britain could not possibly give. He finished up this series of orations by a resolute speech at Guildhall on Lord Mayor's day; when he told the city that it would be a long-drawn-out struggle, but that England would not sheathe the sword until Belgium had recovered all and more than all that she had sacrificed, until France was adequately secured against the menace of aggression, until the rights of the smaller nationalities were placed on an unassailable foundation, until the military dominion of Prussia was fully and finally destroyed. On Nov. 25 he formed a war council, consisting of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary, the Indian Secretary and Lord Haldane, in addition to Lord Kitchener, Mr. Churchill, and himself; but the main responsibility still rested on the last three, and the naval and military experts attended in a somewhat undefined position.
As the fervour of the early months of the war died away, many troublesome questions embarrassed Mr. Asquith and his Government. Besides the anxious problem of the Dardanelles expedition, he had to consider whether the system of compulsory service, hateful to the traditions of the Liberal party, had not become inevitable; how to eradicate spying, and to what extent to intern aliens; how to deal with the problem of the liquor trade and traffic, which seriously interfered with necessary production; how to prevent the occurrence during war of industrial disputes, which frequently broke out in the first half of 1915. Drink and strikes had a close bearing on the problem which became specially urgent in April, the absolute necessity of an enormous increase in munitions of war. The Times revealed the perilous shortage at the front; Mr. Lloyd George dilated upon it in the House; but Mr. Asquith, in a speech at Newcastle-on-Tyne on April 30, which was mainly devoted to emphasizing the importance of matériel in this war and to encouraging miners, shipbuilders, engineers, iron workers, and dockers to further efforts, raised a storm of criticism by denying that the operations in the field had been crippled because of a want of ammunition.
The uneasiness in the country immediately increased, and there was a pronounced demand for broadening the basis of Government. On May 12 Mr. Asquith repudiated the idea that any such step was in contemplation; but a week later, the quarrel which had developed between Mr. Churchill and Lord Fisher at the Admiralty convinced him that there must be a change, and he invited the Unionists, the Labour party, and the leaders of the two Irish parties to join him in office, by forming a Coalition Ministry. From all whom he invited, but Mr. Redmond, he received acceptances, and he was able to find places in his new Cabinet for them without excluding any important previous colleague of his own, except Lord Haldane, whose German affinities had offended public opinion. He gained the services of many powerful men among the Unionists — Mr. Bonar Law, Lord Lansdowne, Mr. Balfour, Lord Curzon, Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Long, Mr. F. E. Smith, Lord Robert Cecil, Lord Selborne; of Mr. Henderson and Mr. Brace from the Labour party; and of Sir Edward Carson, the Ulster leader. But he kept the premiership in his own hands, and retained Sir Edward Grey at the Foreign Office, and Lord Kitchener at the War Office. He explained his decision in the House of Commons in these words: —
- What I came to think was needed, was such a broadening of the basis of the Government as would take away from it even the semblance of a one-sided or party character, and would demonstrate beyond the possibility of doubt, not only to our own people but to the whole world, that after nearly a year of war, with all its fluctuations and vicissitudes, the British people were more resolute than ever, with one heart and one purpose, to obliterate all distinctions and unite every personal and political as well as every moral and material force in the prosecution of their cause.
He emphasized the facts (1) that in the Coalition no surrender was implied of convictions on either side; (2) that there was no change in national policy, which was “to pursue this war at any cost to a victorious issue.” His Coalition Government made a good start. He constituted a new Ministry of Munitions, presided over by Mr. Lloyd George, who had by this time impressed the public as being the most resolute and determined of his colleagues; he and his Cabinet issued a great war loan; they introduced a measure for national registration; they imposed an enormously increased taxation; and there was established in the Cabinet a system of pooling salaries, so that every minister should receive the same amount. In June Mr. Asquith paid a four days' visit to the British front in France; and in July he attended a conference at Calais in which British statesmen and generals met French statesmen and generals in order to coordi- nate Allied action — the first of many conferences of the kind. On the adjournment of Parliament on July 28 he said that the war had become a struggle of endurance.
The formation of the Coalition did not stem the agitation for compulsory service; and in the autumn Mr. Asquith's Government appointed Lord Derby director of recruiting, in the hope that his energy would produce such satisfactory results as to obviate the necessity of resorting to compulsion. But Mr. Asquith stated that, if Lord Derby failed to bring in sufficient single men, he would come to the House without any hesitation and recommend some form of legal obligation. Lord Derby had a considerable but not an adequate success; and Mr. Asquith was driven to introduce compulsion in 1916, at first in a somewhat modified form, but later as universally applicable to males between the ages of 18 and 41. These measures caused the resignation of Sir John Simon, the Home Secretary. This was the third loss of a colleague which the Prime Minister had suffered since the Coalition. Sir Edward Carson, the Attorney-General, had resigned in the autumn owing to the muddles of ministerial policy in the Balkans, and Mr. Churchill because of his exclusion from the immediate direction of the war. All three became occasionally keen critics of their former colleagues, whose delays in this vital matter of universal service weakened and discredited them in the country.
Mr. Asquith took a further step early in 1916 in the direction of close cooperation between the Allies by attending, along with Sir E. Grey, Mr. Lloyd George, Lord Kitchener and Gen. Sir William Robertson, an Allied conference in Paris, representative not only of England and France, but of Russia, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Serbia, and Portugal. Thence he went on to Rome, where he visited the Pope, and made a speech in the Capitol declaring the solidarity of Italy, France, and England at that critical moment of the world's history; afterwards proceeding to the Italian headquarters, where he was received by King Victor Emanuel and Gen. Cadorna. Later, in June, he and his Government arranged an economic conference, also in Paris, which provided for measures of economic union between the Allies, for conservation of the national resources of Allied countries, and for economic protection against enemy trade “penetration” and “dumping” after the war. His special attention was claimed at the end of April by rebellion in Ireland, the most serious incident of which was the capture of a great part of Dublin for a week by rebels (see Ireland). After the suppression of the rising by the troops and the prompt execution of the leaders, he appointed a commission of inquiry, and he himself visited Ireland and returned with a conviction that a united effort must be made to reconstitute Irish government. He appointed Mr. Lloyd George to negotiate and formulate suggestions. In the result he proposed a provisional settlement, for the war and 12 months after, on the basis of bringing the Home Rule Act with certain amendments into immediate operation, with the exclusion of six Ulster counties. To this Sir Edward Carson agreed, but Mr. Redmond objected to the amendments, and nothing was done. The negotiations lost Mr. Asquith the services of Lord Selborne as the rebellion had deprived him of those of Mr. Birrell, the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
The basis of his ministry was rudely shaken in the summer of 1916 by the loss of Lord Kitchener at sea. Lord Kitchener's place at the War Office was taken by Mr. Lloyd George, whose reputation for “getting things done” had been enormously enhanced by the energy with which he had organized the Ministry of Munitions. The attack on the Somme seemed to promise an end to the trench war, but after many weeks of most determined fighting the German line was not broken through; and in the latter part of the year Rumania was crushed. These events in- creased public dissatisfaction, which had been stimulated by half-hearted dealings with the blockade of Germany, with the food problem, and with the creation of an adequate aerial force; and public criticism was focused on Mr. Asquith, whose incautious phrase of six years before — “wait and see” — was frequently flung in his face. In the House of Commons two strong committees, one of Liberals and one of Conservatives, had been formed for the purpose of the resolute prosecution of the war and the keeping of ministers up to the mark. Mr. Asquith's speeches were always resolute enough; he promptly denounced any overtures of pacifists for a premature peace; but he was thought to be lacking in initiative, and to carry into the counsels of war somewhat the attitude of an impartial Cabinet chairman weighing pros and cons and counting heads for a decision.
The War Council initiated under his Liberal Government was continued with very little modification, save in personnel, under the Coalition; and the final authority remained with the Cabinet. It was felt that a small body, sitting daily, with power to act at once without reference, was essential for the proper conduct of the war. Mr. Lloyd George, the most active member of the War Council, by a letter on Dec. 1, demanded the establishment of such a body, with himself as one of its members, but without Mr. Asquith. He subsequently amended his proposal, giving Mr. Asquith a consultative membership and a power of veto. But it was clear that the effect must be to transfer the main conduct of the war from Mr. Asquith to Mr. Lloyd George. Mr. Asquith, who had consented to reconstruct his Government, refused Mr. Lloyd George's ultimatum; and on Dec. 5 Mr. Lloyd George resigned. Without him Mr. Asquith clearly could not carry on, and he himself resigned the same evening, being succeeded, after some complications, by Mr. Lloyd George. So ended a premiership which had lasted nearly nine years, and left an ineffaceable mark on English history. He carried into retirement his principal Liberal colleagues, including Lord Grey of Fallodon; and many tributes of regard and respect were paid him by the Unionists who had been his colleagues.
After his resignation Mr. Asquith took his seat on the front Opposition bench; but he disclaimed being in any sense a leader of Opposition, and affirmed that his one desire was to give the Government the benefit of whatever experience he had gained. He maintained this attitude throughout 1917, making resolute and helpful speeches in different parts of the country on behalf of the national war aims. In Parliament he rendered material assistance to the Ministerial Franchise bill; and he announced that the services of women during the war had converted him to female suffrage. In 1918 he became rather more critical, and in particular called parliamentary attention to a letter in which Gen. Sir Frederick Maurice, formerly Director of Military Operations, challenged the veracity of ministerial statements. He moved to refer the general's charges to a select committee of the House, but was beaten on a division by 293 votes to 106. This action, taken during the period of the alarming German advance, marked a definite cleavage with the Government, which was widened after the Armistice by the conditions under which the general election was held in December. Mr. Asquith and those of his colleagues who had not joined Mr. Lloyd George, together with a considerable section of Liberal members, declined to pledge their support to the Coalition Government, and desired to be returned as independent Liberals. As the electorate was resolved that those who had won the war should make the peace and begin the reconstruction of the country, he and the whole of his principal colleagues lost their seats, and only 28 of his followers in all were returned. He did not come back to Parliament till Feb. 1920, when he was elected at a by-election for Paisley. This time he appeared as the leader of the independent Liberal Opposition which had been temporarily led in his absence by Sir Donald Maclean; but his followers, though they had gained some seat's since the general election, were still smaller in number in Parliament than the representatives of Labour. Possibly for that reason he was more active in the country than in Parliament, devoting himself to efforts for reviving the Liberal party. He maintained that the time was come to put an end to the Coalition and resume party Government. He attacked ministers for their departures from Free Trade, for their wasteful administration, and for their policy in Ireland. He strongly condemned reprisals in that island, and declared for Dominion Home Rule. For a time he seemed to be recovering his hold on the country; but in the last half of 1920 and in 1921 there was a setback. It was no help to his political position that Mrs. Asquith published in the autumn of 1920 a volume of very frank and indiscreet Reminiscences.
In 1918 Mr. Asquith himself published a volume of Occasional Addresses, delivered between the years 1893-1916, thus remind- ing the world that he was a worthy successor of a long line of scholarly and intellectual Prime Ministers, capable of treating with distinction and acceptance matters of the mind wholly unconnected with politics. The book contained, amongst others, Rectorial Addresses to the universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen, a Presidential Address to the Classical Association, and a dissertation on “biography” read before the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution. The universities of the country duly recognized the claims made upon them by his scholarship. Besides being elected to the rectorships, first of Glasgow and then of Aberdeen, he received honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrews, Durham, Bristol and Leeds.
Mr. Asquith had four sons and a daughter by his first marriage, and a son and a daughter by his second marriage. His eldest son, Raymond Asquith (1878-1916), had a brilliant career at Oxford, where he was a scholar of Balliol, gained a first class both in classical moderations and in lit. hum., won the Ireland, Craven, and Derby scholarships, was president of the Union, and was finally elected in 1902 to a fellowship at All Souls. He went to the bar, and acquired a considerable practice, but when the World War broke out he at once sought a commission and was killed in action in France as a lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards. He left a widow and three children. The third son, Arthur Melland Asquith (1883-), distinguished himself greatly in the war, becoming brigadier-general and D.S.O. In 1918 he was appointed controller of the Trench Warfare Department of the Ministry of Munitions, and in 1919 controller, Appointments Department, and member of council at the Ministry of Labour. The fourth son, Cyril Asquith (1890-), followed his brother Raymond in his Oxford career. He was a scholar of Balliol, gained a first class both in classical moderations and in lit. hum., won the Hertford, Ireland, Craven, and Eldon scholarships, and was elected fellow of Magdalen. The war came just at the close of his undergraduate life, and he served in the army before being called to the bar in 1920. Mr. Asquith's daughter by his first wife, Violet, married his private secretary, Sir Maurice Bonham-Carter; his daughter by his second wife, Elizabeth, married Prince Antoine Bibesco, for 16 years a member of the Rumanian Legation in London, and in 1921 appointed Rumanian minister to the United States.
- 30 Jul - Speech in the House of Commons.
- 06 Aug - Speech in the House of Commons.
- 28 Aug - Letter to Lord Mayor.
- 04 Sep - Speech at the Guildhall.
- 18 Sep - Speech at Edinburgh.
- 25 Sep - Speech at Dublin.
- 02 Oct - Speech at Cardiff.
- 09 Nov - Speech at the Guildhall.
Chronological events here part of The Great War:On This Day project. We need your help to expand and improve upon this content.
Source: Lord Edward Gleichen (1918–1920). Chronology of the War. Volumes I, II & III. Constable & Company, London. (Copyright expired)
- Various authors. (1915). Great Speeches of the War. Hazell, Watson and Viney, London.
- Speech was at a patriotic meeting of the Citizens of London held in the Guildhall on 4 September, 1914. The Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, Mr. Balfour, and Mr. Bonar Law, the leader of the Opposition, were the principal speakers.