|Birth Day:||July 25, 1848|
|Death Date:||Mar 19, 1930 (age 81)|
As per our current Database, Arthur Balfour died on Mar 19, 1930 (age 81).
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After graduating from Trinity College, University of Cambridge, he entered politics and became a Member of Parliament as well as Secretary for Scotland and Chief Secretary for Ireland.
Balfour met his cousin May Lyttelton in 1870 when she was 19. After her two previous serious suitors had died, Balfour is said to have declared his love for her in December 1874. She died of typhus on Palm Sunday, March 1875; Balfour arranged for an emerald ring to be buried in her coffin. Lavinia Talbot, May's older sister, believed that an engagement had been imminent, but her recollections of Balfour's distress (he was "staggered") were not written down until thirty years later. The historian R. J. Q. Adams points out that May's letters discuss her love life in detail, but contain no evidence that she was in love with Balfour, nor that he had spoken to her of marriage. He visited her only once during her serious three-month illness, and was soon accepting social invitations again within a month of her death. Adams suggests that, although he may simply have been too shy to express his feelings fully, Balfour may also have encouraged tales of his youthful tragedy as a convenient cover for his disinclination to marry; the matter cannot be conclusively proven. In later years mediums claimed to pass on messages from her – see the "Palm Sunday Case".
In 1874 Balfour was elected Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Hertford until 1885. From 1885 to 1906 he served as the Member of Parliament for Manchester East. In spring 1878, he became Private Secretary to his uncle, Lord Salisbury. He accompanied Salisbury (then Foreign Secretary) to the Congress of Berlin and gained his first experience in international politics in connection with the settlement of the Russo-Turkish conflict. At the same time he became known in the world of letters; the academic subtlety and literary achievement of his Defence of Philosophic Doubt (1879) suggested he might make a reputation as a philosopher.
In 1885, Lord Salisbury appointed Balfour President of the Local Government Board; the following year he became Secretary for Scotland with a seat in the cabinet. These offices, while offering few opportunities for distinction, were an apprenticeship. In early 1887, Sir Michael Hicks Beach, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, resigned because of illness and Salisbury appointed his nephew in his place. The appointment surprised the political world and possibly led to the British phrase "Bob's your uncle!" The selection was much criticized. It was received with contemptuous ridicule by the Irish Nationalists, for none suspected Balfour's immense strength of will, his debating power, his ability in attack and his still greater capacity to disregard criticism. Balfour surprised critics by ruthless enforcement of the Crimes Act, earning the nickname "Bloody Balfour". His steady administration did much to dispel his reputation as a political lightweight.
Balfour remained a lifelong bachelor. Margot Tennant (later Margot Asquith) wished to marry him, but Balfour said: "No, that is not so. I rather think of having a career of my own." His household was maintained by his unmarried sister, Alice. In middle age, Balfour had a 40-year friendship with Mary Charteris (née Wyndham), Lady Elcho, later Countess of Wemyss and March. Although one biographer writes that "it is difficult to say how far the relationship went", her letters suggest they may have become lovers in 1887 and may have engaged in sado-masochism, a claim echoed by A. N. Wilson. Another biographer believes they had "no direct physical relationship", although he dismisses as unlikely suggestions that Balfour was homosexual, or, in view of a time during the Boer War when he was seen as he replied to a message while drying himself after his bath, Lord Beaverbrook's claim that he was "a hermaphrodite" whom no-one saw naked.
In Parliament he resisted overtures to the Irish Parliamentary Party on Home Rule, which he saw as an expression of superficial or false Irish nationalism. Allied with Joseph Chamberlain's Liberal Unionists, he encouraged Unionist activism in Ireland. Balfour also helped the poor by creating the Congested Districts Board for Ireland in 1890. Balfour downplayed the factor of Irish nationalism, arguing that the real issues were economic. Regarding ownership and control of the land, he believed that once violence was suppressed and land was sold to the tenants, Irish nationalism would no longer threaten the unity of the United Kingdom. The slogan “to kill home rule with kindness” characterized Balfour’s new policy toward Ireland. The Liberals had begun land sales to Irish tenants with the Land Act of 1881 and expanded by the Conservatives in the land purchase scheme of 1885. However the depression in agriculture kept prices low. Balfour's solution was to keep selling land and in 1887 lowering rents to match the lower prices, and protected more tenants against eviction by their landlords. Balfour greatly expanded the land sales. They culminated in the final Unionist land purchase program of 1903, when Balfour was prime minister and George Wyndham was the Irish secretary. It encouraged landlords the sell by means of a 12% cash bonus. Tenants were encouraged to buy with a low interest rate, and payments drawn out over 68 years. In 1909, Liberal legislation required compulsory sales in certain cases. As the landlords sold out, they relocated to Britain, giving up their political power in Ireland. Tensions in the countryside dramatically declined as some 200,000 peasant proprietors owned about half the land in Ireland. After 1890 violence declined sharply, and as Balfour had hoped, Irish nationalism was a relatively minor factor. The situation suddenly was transformed when the Easter rebellion of 1916 radicalized Ireland.
On the death of W. H. Smith in 1891, Balfour became First Lord of the Treasury – the last in British history not to have been concurrently Prime Minister as well – and Leader of the House of Commons. After the fall of the government in 1892 he spent three years in opposition. When the Conservatives returned to power, in coalition with the Liberal Unionists, in 1895, Balfour again became Leader of the House and First Lord of the Treasury. His management of the abortive education proposals of 1896 showed a disinclination for the drudgery of parliamentary management, yet he saw the passage of a bill providing Ireland with improved local government under the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 and joined in debates on foreign and domestic questions between 1895 and 1900.
During the illness of Lord Salisbury in 1898, and again in Salisbury's absence abroad, Balfour was in charge of the Foreign Office, and he conducted negotiations with Russia on the question of railways in North China. As a member of the cabinet responsible for the Transvaal negotiations in 1899, he bore his share of controversy and, when the war began disastrously, he was first to realise the need to use the country's full military strength. His leadership of the House was marked by firmness in the suppression of obstruction, yet there was a slight revival of the criticisms of 1896.
With Lord Salisbury's resignation on 11 July 1902, Balfour succeeded him as Prime Minister, with the approval of all the Unionist party. The new Prime Minister came into power practically at the same moment as the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and the end of the South African War. The Liberal party was still disorganised over the Boers.
Balfour was appointed Prime Minister on 12 July 1902 while the King was recovering from his recent appendicitis operation. Changes to the Cabinet were thus not announced until 9 August, when the King was back in London. The new ministers were received in audience and took their oaths on 11 August.
The budget was certain to show a surplus and taxation could be remitted. Yet as events proved, it was the budget that would sow dissension, override other legislative concerns and signal a new political movement. Charles Thomson Ritchie's remission of the shilling import-duty on corn led to Joseph Chamberlain's crusade in favour of tariff reform. These were taxes on imported goods with trade preference given to the Empire, to protect British industry from competition, strengthen the Empire in the face of growing German and American economic power, and provide revenue, other than raising taxes, for the social welfare legislation. As the session proceeded, the rift grew in the Unionist ranks. Tariff reform was popular with Unionist supporters, but the threat of higher prices for food imports made the policy an electoral albatross. Hoping to split the difference between the free traders and tariff reformers in his cabinet and party, Balfour favoured retaliatory tariffs to punish others who had tariffs against the British, in the hope of encouraging global free trade. This was not sufficient for either the free traders or the extreme tariff reformers in government. With Balfour's agreement, Chamberlain resigned from the Cabinet in late 1903 to campaign for tariff reform. At the same time, Balfour tried to balance the two factions by accepting the resignation of three free-trading ministers, including Chancellor Ritchie, but the almost simultaneous resignation of the free-trader Duke of Devonshire (who as Lord Hartington had been the Liberal Unionist leader of the 1880s) left Balfour's Cabinet weak. By 1905 few Unionist MPs were still free traders (Winston Churchill crossed to the Liberals in 1904 when threatened with deselection at Oldham), but Balfour's act had drained his authority within the government.
Balfour, who had known Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann since 1906, opposed Russian mistreatment of Jews and increasingly supported Zionism as a programme for European Jews to settle in Palestine. However, in 1905 he supported the Aliens Act 1905, one of whose main objectives was to control and restrict Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe.
Balfour resigned as Prime Minister in December 1905, hoping the Liberal leader Campbell-Bannerman would be unable to form a strong government. This was dashed when Campbell-Bannerman faced down an attempt ("The Relugas Compact") to "kick him upstairs" to the House of Lords. The Conservatives were defeated by the Liberals at the general election the following January (in terms of MPs, a Liberal landslide), with Balfour losing his seat at Manchester East to Thomas Gardner Horridge, a solicitor and king's counsel. Only 157 Conservatives were returned to the Commons, at least two-thirds followers of Chamberlain, who chaired the Conservative MPs until Balfour won a safe seat in the City of London.
Historians generally praised Balfour's achievements in military and foreign policy. Cannon & Crowcroft 2015 stress the importance of the Anglo‐French Entente of 1904, and the establishment of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Rasor points to twelve historians who have examined his key role in naval and military reforms. However, there was little political payback at the time. The local Conservative campaigns in 1906 focused mostly on a few domestic issues. Balfour gave strong support for Jackie Fisher's naval reforms.
After the general election of 1906 Balfour remained party leader, his position strengthened by Joseph Chamberlain's absence from the House of Commons after his stroke in July 1906, but he was unable to make much headway against the huge Liberal majority in the Commons. An early attempt to score a debating triumph over the government, made in Balfour's usual abstruse, theoretical style, saw Campbell-Bannerman respond with: "Enough of this foolery," to the delight of his supporters. Balfour made the controversial decision, with Lord Lansdowne, to use the heavily Unionist House of Lords as a check on the political programme and legislation of the Liberal party in the Commons. Legislation was vetoed or altered by amendments between 1906 and 1909, leading David Lloyd George to remark that the Lords was "the right hon. Gentleman's poodle. It fetches and carries for him. It barks for him. It bites anybody that he sets it on to. And we are told that this is a great revising Chamber, the safeguard of liberty in the country." The issue was forced by the Liberals with Lloyd George's People's Budget, provoking the constitutional crisis that led to the Parliament Act 1911, which limited the Lords to delaying bills for up to two years. After the Unionists lost the general elections of 1910 (despite softening the tariff reform policy with Balfour's promise of a referendum on food taxes), the Unionist peers split to allow the Parliament Act to pass the House of Lords, to prevent mass creation of Liberal peers by the new King, George V. The exhausted Balfour resigned as party leader after the crisis, and was succeeded in late 1911 by Bonar Law.
Balfour may have been personally sympathetic to extending suffrage, with his brother Gerald, Conservative MP for Leeds Central married to women's suffrage activist Constance Lytton's sister Betty. But he accepted the strength of the political opposition to women's suffrage, as shown in correspondence with Christabel Pankhurst, a leader of the WSPU. Balfour argued that he was 'not convinced the majority of women actually wanted the vote', in 1907. A rebuttal which meant extending the activist campaign for women's rights. He was reminded by Lytton of a speech he made in 1892, namely that this question 'will arise again, menacing and ripe for resolution', she asked him to meet WSPU leader, Christabel Pankhurst, after a series of hunger strikes and suffering by imprisoned suffragettes in 1907. Balfour refused on the grounds of her militancy. Christabel pleaded direct to meet Balfour as Conservative party leader, on their policy manifesto for the General Election of 1909, but he refused again as women's suffrage was 'not a party question and his colleagues were divided on the matter'. She tried and failed again to get his open support in parliament for women's cause in the 1910 private member's Conciliation Bill. He voted for the bill in the end but not for its progress to the Grand Committee, preventing it becoming law, and extending the activist campaigns as a result again. The following year Lytton and Annie Kenney in person after another reading of the Bill, but again it was not prioritised as government business. His sister-in-law Lady Betty Balfour spoke to Churchill that her brother was to speak for this policy, and also met the Prime Minister in a 2011 delegation of the women's movements respresenting the Conservative and Unionist Women's Franchise Association. But it was not until 1918 that (some) women were given the right to vote in elections in the United Kingdom, despite a forty-year campaign.
Balfour created and chaired the Committee of Imperial Defence, which provided better long-term coordinated planning between the Army and Navy. Austen Chamberlain said Britain would have been unprepared for the World War without his Committee of Imperial Defence. He wrote, "It is impossible to overrate the services thus rendered by Balfour to the Country and Empire....[Without the CID] victory would have been impossible." Historians also praised the Anglo-French Convention (1904), which formed the basis of the Entente Cordiale with France that proved decisive in 1914.
He was a member of the Society for Psychical Research, a society studying psychic and paranormal phenomena, and was its president from 1892 to 1894. In 1914, he delivered the Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow, which formed the basis for his book Theism and Humanism (1915).
Balfour remained important in the party, however, and when the Unionists joined Asquith's coalition government in May 1915, Balfour succeeded Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty. When Asquith's government collapsed in December 1916, Balfour, who seemed a potential successor to the premiership, became Foreign Secretary in Lloyd George's new administration, but not in the small War Cabinet, and was frequently left out of inner workings of government. Balfour's service as Foreign Secretary was notable for the Balfour Mission, a crucial alliance-building visit to the US in April 1917, and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, a letter to Lord Rothschild affirming the government's support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire.
Balfour resigned as Foreign Secretary following the Versailles Conference in 1919, but continued in the government (and the Cabinet after normal peacetime political arrangements resumed) as Lord President of the Council. In 1921–22 he represented the British Empire at the Washington Naval Conference and during summer 1922 stood in for the Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, who was ill. He put forward a proposal for the international settlement of war debts and reparations (the Balfour Note), but it was not accepted.
After the First World War, when there was controversy over the style of headstone proposed for use on British war graves being taken on by the Imperial War Graves Commission, Balfour submitted a design for a cruciform headstone. At an exhibition in August 1919, it drew many criticisms; the Commission's principal architect, Sir John Burnet, said Balfour's cross would create a criss-cross effect destroying any sense of "restful diginity", Edwin Lutyens called it "extraordinarily ugly", and its shape was variously described as resembling a shooting target or bottle. His design was not accepted but the Commission offered him a second chance to submit another design which he did not take up, having been refused once. After a further exhibition in the House of Commons, the "Balfour cross" was ultimately rejected in favour of the standard headstone the Commission permanently adopted because the latter offered more space for inscriptions and service emblems.
On 5 May 1922, Balfour was created Earl of Balfour and Viscount Traprain, of Whittingehame, in the county of Haddington. In October 1922 he, with most of the Conservative leadership, resigned with Lloyd George's government following the Carlton Club meeting, a Conservative back-bench revolt against continuance of the coalition. Bonar Law became Prime Minister. Like many Coalition leaders, he did not hold office in the Conservative governments of 1922–1924, but as an elder statesman, he was consulted by the King in the choice of Stanley Baldwin as Bonar Law's successor as Conservative leader in May 1923. When asked whether "dear George" (the much more experienced Lord Curzon) would be chosen, he replied, referring to Curzon's wealthy wife Grace, "No, dear, George will not but while he may have lost the hope of glory he still possesses the means of Grace."
For most of the 19th century, the very powerful political and economic position of the Church of Ireland (Anglican) landowners blocked the political aspirations of Irish nationalists, who by 1900 included both Catholic and Presbyterian elements. Balfour's solution was to buy them out, not by compulsion, but by offering the owners a full immediate payment and a 12% bonus on the sales price. The British government purchased 13 million acres (53,000 km2) by 1920, and sold farms to the tenants at low payments spread over seven decades. It would cost money, but all sides proved amenable. Starting in 1923 the Irish government bought out most of the remaining landowners, and in 1933 diverted payments being made to the British treasury and used them for local improvements.
Balfour was not initially included in Baldwin's second government in 1924, but in 1925, he returned to the Cabinet, in place of the late Lord Curzon as Lord President of the Council, until the government ended in 1929. With 28 years of government service, Balfour had one of the longest ministerial careers in modern British politics, second only to Winston Churchill .
Lord Balfour had generally good health until 1928 and remained until then a regular tennis player. Four years previously he had been the first president of the International Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain. At the end of 1928, most of his teeth were removed and he suffered the unremitting circulatory trouble which ended his life. Before that, he had suffered occasional phlebitis and, by late 1929, he was immobilised by it. Balfour died at his brother Gerald's home, Fishers Hill House in Hook Heath, Woking, on 19 March 1930. At his request a public funeral was declined, and he was buried on 22 March beside members of his family at Whittingehame in a Church of Scotland service although he also belonged to the Church of England. By special remainder, his title passed to his brother Gerald.
According to historian Robert Ensor, writing in 1936, Balfour can be credited with achievement in five major areas:
Currently, Arthur Balfour is 173 years, 2 months and 3 days old. Arthur Balfour will celebrate 174th birthday on a Monday 25th of July 2022.
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