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About Richard Burdon Sanderson Haldane, 1st Viscount
The Right Honourable
Richard Burdon Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane
Lord Chancellor Liberal Party (UK)
1885 – 1910
Preceded by Robert Threshie Reid, 1st Earl of Loreburn
Born 30 July 1856
Died 19 August 1928 (aged 72)
Religion Roman Catholic
Childhood and Family Background
Lord Haldane was born in Edinburgh, the son of Robert Haldane and his wife Mary Elizabeth Burdon-Sanderson. He was the grandson of the Scottish evangelist James Alexander Haldane. His brother was respiratory physiologist John Scott Haldane, his nephew was JBS Haldane and his sister was the author Elizabeth Haldane.
Haldane received his first education at the Edinburgh Academy and at the Göttingen University and University of Edinburgh where he received first-class honors in Philosophy and as Gray scholar and Ferguson scholar in philosophy of the four Scottish Universities. After studying law in London, he was called to the bar in 1879 and was a very successful lawyer. Haldane remained a lifelong bachelor after his fiancée broke off their engagement.
In 1885 he was elected a Liberal member of Parliament for Haddingtonshire. In 1895, he helped found the London School of Economics. He was also a member of the Coefficients dining club of social reformers set up in 1902 by the Fabian campaigners Sidney and Beatrice Webb. In 1904 he was President of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club and gave the Toast to Sir Walter at the clubs annual dinner. In 1905, he was appointed Secretary of State for War in Henry Campbell Bannerman's administration. Haldane, a prominent Liberal Imperialist and close associate of Herbert Henry Asquith, was a strong advocate of British commitments on the continent, and took great steps in preparing the army for participation in a possible European war by establishing the British Expeditionary Force. His tenure also saw the creation of the Imperial General Staff, the Territorial Army, the Officer Training Corps, and the Special Reserve. He was given a peerage in 1911, becoming the Viscount Haldane. Upon Lord Loreburn's retirement in 1912, Haldane succeeded him as Lord Chancellor, but was forced to resign in 1915, after being falsely accused of pro-German sympathies.
As the war progressed, Haldane moved increasingly close to the Labour Party but he was held back by his ties to the Liberal Party and to Asquith. It was not until the general election of 1923 when Haldane made several speeches for Labour candidates. When the Labour government was formed by Ramsay MacDonald, Haldane was recruited to serve once again as Lord Chancellor. He was also joint Leader of the Labour Peers with Lord Parmoor. Haldane was a vital member of the Cabinet as he was one of only three members who had sat in a cabinet before; the other two had sat only briefly and for junior posts.
Haldane also served as second Chancellor of the University of Bristol, and was elected Chancellor of the University of St Andrews shortly before his death.
He co-translated the first English edition of Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation, published between 1883 and 1886. He wrote several philosophical works, the best known of which is The Reign of Relativity (1921), which dealt with the philosophical implications of the theory of relativity.
He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1907 to 1908.
Painting of Sir Richard Haldane by Philip Alexius de László. Oil on millboard, 1928.
Works by Richard Burdon Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane at Project Gutenberg
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article by H. C. G. Matthew, Haldane, Richard Burdon, Viscount Haldane (1856–1928), online edn, May 2006 , accessed 28 Feb 2007.
Portait by Philip de Laszlo