A Victim of His Times
Born into the aristocracy, Beauchamp was driven by a sense of noblesse oblige and devoted his life to public service. Though some of this was ceremonial, Beauchamp was keen to involve himself in practical politics, where he showed his independence of mind. He joined the Liberals as they pushed through change against obstruction from his own landowning class. He championed Irish Home Rule. In 1914 he opposed entry into the war and lost any chance of promotion. However, he remained deeply loyal to his party even after its split and decline, and worked tirelessly in its cause.
His life touched on great events such as the formation of Australia and, in Britain, the great reforms of 1906–9, the 1911 Parliament Act, the crisis of 1914, the creation of the Irish Free State, the Liberal collapse, the first Labour government and the economic slump. Through all these, he busied himself in party affairs, but one aspect of his private life worked against him and, in a Sophoclean twist, he fell from grace.
This book documents the Earl’s involvement in politics, explores his personality and looks carefully at the issues that brought him down. In the light of this analysis, it is hoped that historians will recognize his significant contribution to the events of his day.
Chapter 4 The Governor and the French Consul General: Further Estrangement
On 27 September 1899 Lord Beauchamp made an official tour of Cobar, where he visited the Cobar Gold Mines and the Great Copper Mines. He even went underground and inspected the huge workings. In the evening a banquet was held in his honour. About ‘seventy people, representing the town and district, were present’. After the toast to the Queen had been made, the chairman proposed, ‘The Governor’. Earl Beauchamp replied saying that he ‘took the flattering reception as a mark of the people’s confidence in their Governor’. He said he had the ‘highest appreciation’ for men who undertook their duties scrupulously. He was, he added, especially pleased to have noticed ‘the marked feeling of loyalty, respect and affection’ with which the guests had received the toast to the Queen: ‘No Queen ever deserved it better.’1 Then, quite unexpectedly, the Earl shot a bolt from the blue at the audience. He referred to an incident which hardly befit- ted the occasion. Referring to the Dreyfus trial2 in France, he described what had happened as ‘a hideous travesty of justice’. It was all very well, he declaimed, to speak of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, but the Dreyfus case had shown that these were just empty phrases in contemporary France. And the way Dreyfus had been treated made him feel glad, Beauchamp 1 See ‘The Governor’s Tour’, The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 28 September 1899. 2 Alfred Dreyfus, French army officer, a Jew, was in December 1894 accused of selling military secrets to...
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