Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith

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Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, KG, KC, PC

Nicknames: "H. H. Asquith"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Morley, West Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Oxfordshire, England
Place of Burial: Oxfordshire, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of Joseph Dixon Asquith and Emily Asquith
Husband of Helen Kelsall Asquith and Margot Asquith, Countess of Oxford and Asquith (Tennant)
Father of Hon. Raymond Asquith; Hon. Herbert Asquith; Brig.-General Hon. Arthur Melland Asquith, DSO**; Hon. Helen Violet Bonham Carter (Asquith); Cyril Asquith, Baron Asquith of Bishopstone, PC and 2 others

Occupation: Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Managed by: Michael Lawrence Rhodes
Last Updated:

About Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, KG, KC, PC

Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, KG, PC, KC (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928) served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. He was the longest continuously serving Prime Minister in the 20th century until early 1988. As Prime Minister, he led his Liberal party to a series of domestic reforms, including social insurance and the reduction of the power of the House of Lords. He led the nation into The First World War, but a series of military and political crises led to his replacement in late 1916 by David Lloyd George. His falling out with Lloyd George played a major part in the downfall of the Liberal Party. Before his term as Prime Minister he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1905 to 1908 and as Home Secretary from 1892 to 1895. During his lifetime he was known as H. H. Asquith before his accession to the peerage and as Lord Oxford afterwards. Asquith's achievements in peacetime have been overshadowed by his weaknesses in wartime. Many historians portray a vacillating prime minister, unable to present the necessary image of action and dynamism to the public. Others stress his continued high administrative ability. The dominant historical verdict is that there were two Asquiths: the urbane and conciliatory Asquith who was a successful peacetime leader and the hesitant and increasingly exhausted Asquith who practised the politics of muddle and delay during the World War. ------- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._H._Asquith -------------------- H. H. Asquith

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For his son, see Herbert Asquith (poet).

The Right Honourable

The Earl of Oxford and Asquith 

KG KC PC


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

In office

5 April 1908 – 5 December 1916

Monarch Edward VII

George V

Preceded by Henry Campbell-Bannerman

Succeeded by David Lloyd George

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Leader of the Opposition

In office

12 February 1920 – 21 November 1922

Monarch George V

Prime Minister David Lloyd George

Andrew Bonar Law

Preceded by Sir Donald Maclean

Succeeded by Ramsay MacDonald

In office

6 December 1916 – December 1918

Monarch George V

Prime Minister David Lloyd George

Preceded by Sir Edward Carson

Succeeded by Sir Donald Maclean

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chancellor of the Exchequer

In office

10 December 1905 – 12 April 1908

Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman

Preceded by Austen Chamberlain

Succeeded by David Lloyd George

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Home Secretary

In office

18 August 1892 – 25 June 1895

Prime Minister William Gladstone

Preceded by Henry Matthews

Succeeded by Matthew Ridley

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Secretary of State for War

In office

30 March 1914 – 5 August 1914

Prime Minister Himself

Preceded by J. E. B. Seely

Succeeded by The Earl Kitchener

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Member of Parliament

for Paisley

In office

12 February 1920 – 4 November 1924

Preceded by John Mills McCallum

Succeeded by Edward Rosslyn Mitchell

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Member of Parliament

for East Fife

In office

27 July 1886 – 14 December 1918

Preceded by John Boyd Kinnear

Succeeded by Alexander Sprot

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Born 12 September 1852(1852-09-12)

Morley, Leeds, Yorkshire, England

Died 15 February 1928 (aged 75)

Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, England

Nationality English

Political party Liberal

Spouse(s) Helen Melland (desc.)

Margot Tennant

Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford, England

Profession Lawyer

Religion Congregationalist

Signature


H.H. Asquith by SpyHerbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, KG, PC, KC (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928) served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916.[1] He was the longest continuously serving Prime Minister in the twentieth century until early 1988, when his record was surpassed by Margaret Thatcher.[2]

As Prime Minister, he led his Liberal party to a series of domestic reforms, including social insurance and the reduction of the power of the House of Lords. He led the nation into The First World War, but a series of military and political crises led to his replacement in late 1916 by David Lloyd George. His falling out with Lloyd George played a major part in the downfall of the Liberal Party.

Before his term as Prime Minister he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1905 to 1908 and as Home Secretary from 1892 to 1895. During his lifetime he was known as H. H. Asquith before his accession to the peerage and as Lord Oxford afterwards.

Asquith's achievements in peacetime have been overshadowed by his weaknesses in wartime. Many historians portray a vacillating prime minister, unable to present the necessary image of action and dynamism to the public.[3] Others[4] stress his continued high administrative ability. The dominant historical verdict is that there were two Asquiths: the urbane and conciliatory Asquith who was a successful peacetime leader and the hesitant and increasingly exhausted Asquith who practiced the politics of muddle and delay during the World War.[5]

Contents [hide]

1 Childhood, education and legal career

1.1 Name

2 Marriages

3 Early political career (1886-1908)

4 Prime Minister (1908-1916)

4.1 Liberal reforms

4.2 Ireland

4.3 World War

4.4 Wartime

5 Later life (1916-1928)

6 Asquith's death and descendants

7 Asquith's Governments

8 References

9 Bibliography

9.1 Primary sources

10 See also

11 External links


[edit] Childhood, education and legal career

He was born in Morley, West Yorkshire, England to Joseph Dixon Asquith (10 February 1825 - 29 March 1860) and his wife Emily Willans (4 May 1828 - 12 December 1888). The Asquiths were a middle class family and members of the Congregational church. Joseph was a wool merchant and came to own his own woolens mill.

Herbert was seven years old when his father died. Emily and her children moved to the house of her father William Willans, a wool-stapler of Huddersfield. Herbert received schooling there and was later sent to a Moravian Church boarding school at Fulneck, near Leeds. In 1863, Herbert was sent to live with an uncle in London, where he entered the City of London School. He was educated there until 1870 and mentored by its headmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott.

In 1870, Asquith won a classical scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. In 1874, Asquith was awarded the Craven scholarship. Despite the unpopularity of the Liberals during the dying days of Gladstone's First Government, he became president of the Oxford Union in the Trinity (summer) term of his fourth year. He graduated that year and soon was elected a fellow at Balliol. Meanwhile he entered Lincoln's Inn as a pupil barrister and for a year served a pupillage under Charles Bowen.

He was called to the bar in 1876 and became prosperous in the early 1880s from practising at the chancery bar. Among other cases he appeared for the defence in the famous case of Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co.[6] Asquith took silk and was appointed QC in 1890. It was at Lincoln's Inn that in 1882 Asquith met R.B. Haldane, whom he would appoint as Lord Chancellor in 1912.

[edit] Name

In his younger days he was called Herbert within the family, but his second wife called him Henry; his biographer Stephen Koss entitled the first chapter of his biography "From Herbert to Henry", referring to upward social mobility and his abandonment of his Yorkshire Nonconformist roots with his second marriage. However, in public he was invariably referred to only as H. H. Asquith. "There have been few major national figures whose Christian names were less well known to the public," writes his biographer, Roy Jenkins.[7] His opponents gave him the nickname "Squiff" or "Squiffy", a derogatory reference to his fondness for drink.[8]

When raised to the peerage in 1925, he proposed to take the title "Earl of Oxford" for the city near which he lived and the university he had attended. Objections were raised, especially by descendants of Earls of Oxford of previous creations (titles by then extinct, eg. Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, a leading Tory statesman of Queen Anne's reign), and his title was given in the form Earl of Oxford and Asquith. In practice, however, he was known as Lord Oxford, which some wags said was "like a suburban villa calling itself 'Versailles'."

[edit] Marriages

He married Helen Kelsall Melland, daughter of a Manchester doctor, in 1877, and they had four sons and one daughter before she died from typhoid fever in 1891. These children were Raymond (1878-1916), Herbert (1881-1947), Arthur (1883–1939), Violet (1887-1969), and Cyril (1890-1954). Of these children, Violet and Cyril became life peers in their own right, Cyril becoming a law lord.

In 1894, he married Margot Tennant, a daughter of Sir Charles Tennant, 1st Bt.. They had two children, Elizabeth Charlotte Lucy (later Princess Antoine Bibesco) (1897-1945) and the film director Anthony (1902-1968).

In 1912, Asquith fell in love with Venetia Stanley, and his romantic obsession with her continued into 1915, when she married Edwin Montagu, a Liberal Cabinet Minister; a volume of Asquith's letters to Venetia, often written during Cabinet meetings and describing political business in some detail, has been published, but it is not known whether or not their relationship was sexually consummated.

All his children, except Anthony, married and left issue. His best-known descendant today is the actress Helena Bonham Carter, a granddaughter of Violet.

[edit] Early political career (1886-1908)

Asquith was elected to Parliament in 1886 as the Liberal representative for East Fife, in Scotland. He never served as a junior minister, but achieved his first significant post in 1892 when he became Home Secretary in the fourth cabinet of Gladstone. He retained his position when Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery took over in 1894. The Liberals lost power in the 1895 general election and for ten years were in opposition. In 1898 he was offered and turned down the opportunity to lead the Liberal Party, then deeply divided and unpopular, preferring to use the opportunity to earn money as a barrister.

During Asquith's period as deputy to the new leader Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, "C. B." was known to request his presence in parliamentary debate by saying, "Send for the sledge-hammer," referring to Asquith's reliable command of facts and his ability to dominate verbal exchange. Asquith toured the country refuting the arguments of Joseph Chamberlain, who had resigned from the Cabinet to campaign for tariffs against imported goods.

After the Conservative government of Arthur Balfour fell in December 1905 there was some speculation that Asquith and his allies Haldane and Sir Edward Grey would refuse to serve unless Campbell-Bannerman accepted a peerage, which would have left Asquith as the real leader in the House of Commons. However, the plot (called the "Relugas Compact" after the Scottish lodge where the men met) collapsed when Asquith agreed to serve as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Grey became Foreign Secretary and Haldane Secretary of State for War). The party won a landslide victory in the 1906 general election.

Asquith demonstrated his staunch support of free trade at the Exchequer. He also introduced the first of the so-called Liberal reforms, including the first old age pensions, but was not as successful as his successor David Lloyd George in getting reforms through Parliament as the House of Lords still had a veto over legislation at that stage.

Campbell-Bannerman resigned due to illness on 3 April 1908 (dying at 10 Downing Street soon afterwards, as he was too sick to move) and Asquith succeeded him as Prime Minister. The King, Edward VII, was holidaying in Biarritz, and refused to return to London, citing health grounds.[9] Asquith was forced to travel to Biarritz for the official "kissing of hands" of the Monarch, the only time a British Prime Minister has formally taken office on foreign soil.

[edit] Prime Minister (1908-1916)

In the 1906 election the Liberals won their greatest landslide in history. In 1908 Asquith became prime minister with a stellar cabinet of leaders from all factions of the Liberal party. Working with David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill he passed the "New Liberalism" legislation setting up unemployment insurance and ending sweatshop conditions; he set the stage for the welfare state in Britain. In 1908 he introduced old age pensions.[10]

[edit] Liberal reforms

The Asquith government became involved in an expensive naval arms race with the German Empire and began an extensive social welfare programme (See Liberal reforms). The social welfare programme proved controversial, and Asquith's government faced severe (and sometimes barely legal) resistance from the Conservative Party. This came to a head in 1909, when David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, produced a deliberately provocative "People's Budget". Among the most controversial in British history, it systematically raised taxes on the rich, especially the landowners, to pay for the welfare programs (and for new battleships). The Conservatives, determined to stop passage, used their majority in the House of Lords to reject the bill. The Lords did not traditionally interfere with finance bills and their actions thus provoked a constitutional crisis, forcing the country to a general election in January 1910.


Asquith in 1908The election resulted in a hung parliament, with the Liberals having two more seats than the Conservatives, but lacking an overall majority. The Liberals formed a minority government with the support of the Irish Nationalists.

At this point the Lords now allowed the budget — for which the Liberals had obtained an electoral mandate — to pass, but the argument had moved on. The radical solution in this situation was to threaten to have King Edward VII pack the House of Lords with freshly-minted Liberal peers, who would override the Lords' veto. With the Conservatives remaining recalcitrant in spring of 1910 (as the Lords' veto had prevented the Liberals from granting Irish Home Rule in 1893), Asquith began contemplating such an option. King Edward VII agreed to do so, after another general election, but died on 6 May 1910 (so heated had passions become that Asquith was accused of having "Killed the King" through stress). His son, King George V, was reluctant to have his first act in office be the carrying out of such a drastic attack on the aristocracy and it required all of Asquith's considerable powers to convince him to make the promise. This the King finally did before the second election of 1910, in December, although Asquith did not make this promise public at the time.

The Liberals again won, though their majority in the Commons was now dependent on MPs from Ireland, who had their own price (at the election the Liberal and Conservative parties were exactly equal in size; by 1914 the Conservative Party was actually larger owing to by-election victories). Nonetheless, Asquith was able to curb the powers of the House of Lords through the Parliament Act 1911, which essentially broke the power of the House of Lords. The Lords could now delay for two years, but with some exceptions not defeat outright, a bill passed by the Commons (this would later be reduced further by the Attlee government in the late 1940s, so the Lords would be obliged to accept a bill which had been passed three times in the same parliamentary session, with some exceptions).

-------------------- Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, KG, PC, KC (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928) served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. He was the longest continuously serving Prime Minister in the 20th century until early 1988. As Prime Minister, he led his Liberal party to a series of domestic reforms, including social insurance and the reduction of the power of the House of Lords. He led the nation into The First World War, but a series of military and political crises led to his replacement in late 1916 by David Lloyd George. His falling out with Lloyd George played a major part in the downfall of the Liberal Party. Before his term as Prime Minister he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1905 to 1908 and as Home Secretary from 1892 to 1895. During his lifetime he was known as H. H. Asquith before his accession to the peerage and as Lord Oxford afterwards. Asquith's achievements in peacetime have been overshadowed by his weaknesses in wartime. Many historians portray a vacillating prime minister, unable to present the necessary image of action and dynamism to the public. Others stress his continued high administrative ability. The dominant historical verdict is that there were two Asquiths: the urbane and conciliatory Asquith who was a successful peacetime leader and the hesitant and increasingly exhausted Asquith who practiced the politics of muddle and delay during the World War. ------- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._H._Asquith

Other References

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Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith's Timeline

1852
September 12, 1852
Morley, West Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
1877
August 23, 1877
Age 24
1878
November 6, 1878
Age 26
1881
March 11, 1881
Age 28
1883
April 24, 1883
Age 30
1887
April 15, 1887
Age 34
Hampstead, London, England
1890
1890
Age 37
1894
May 10, 1894
Age 41
1897
February 26, 1897
Age 44
1902
1902
Age 49