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 9: Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms
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Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms
The Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms acts as chief whip in the House of Lords. It is a ministerial role. The holder of the post plays an active part at the despatch box, promoting and defending departmental policy. This task involves: 1) answering questions; 2) responding to debates; and 3) pushing through primary and secondary legislation. Earl Beauchamp occupied this post from the middle of December 1905 till the end of July 1907. We must in brief establish the background to this appointment.
In 1902 the British cabinet was in complete disarray. It was divided between the adherents of protectionism and those who stood for free trade. The situation became worse when, on 15 May 1903, Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary, delivered a controversial speech defending imperial preference against the free trade policy. The speech caused a serious split within the government. Some prominent members of the cabinet were dismissed (C. T. Richtie, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and Lord Balfour of Burleigh,1 the Secretary for Scotland); and others resigned (Joseph Chamberlain himself; the Duke of Devonshire, who was Lord President; and Lord George Hamilton, Secretary for India). To stabilize the government in this crisis and to counter Chamberlain’s continued agitation for imperial preference, A. J. Balfour,2 the Prime Minister, announced a proposal to call a Colonial Conference, at which delegates would be able to air their views freely and...
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