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 14: Advocate of Irish Home Rule
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Advocate of Irish Home Rule
In the years we are considering, around 1912, the issue of Irish Home Rule was still a burning question. The two Gladstonian Home Rule bills, put forward in the nineteenth century, had been killed either by the House of Commons or by the House of Lords.1 The Parliament Act, 1911, which had now drastically cut the powers of the upper chamber, offered new prospects of success. The Parliament Act gave the Lords a delaying period of two years to debate and decide on a bill sent up to them by the Commons, and after this delay, even if the Lords still opposed a bill that had passed the Commons through all three stages, it received the Royal Assent nonetheless. Asquith was keen to achieve Home Rule for Ireland. The problem he and his close advisers faced was whether Ireland should be treated as a single unit, or whether there should be provisions made for the Ulster Unionists who strongly opposed any Home Rule for the country. For their part, the Irish Nationalists equally resisted any concessions to Ulster. Asquith was also aware of the fact that he could not push a Home Rule bill through the Commons without Irish support. Therefore, with the backing of Lord ← 287 | 288 → Crewe, he recommended a compromise, to which the cabinet agreed. It suggested:2
a) that the Bill as introduced should apply to the whole of...
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