Austen Chamberlain
Overview
 
Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain, KG
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

 (16 October 1863 – 17 March 1937) was a British statesman
Statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 and half-brother of Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

.
Austen Chamberlain was born in Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, the second child and eldest son of Joseph Chamberlain
Joseph Chamberlain
Joseph Chamberlain was an influential British politician and statesman. Unlike most major politicians of the time, he was a self-made businessman and had not attended Oxford or Cambridge University....

, then a rising industrialist and political radical
Radicalism (historical)
The term Radical was used during the late 18th century for proponents of the Radical Movement. It later became a general pejorative term for those favoring or seeking political reforms which include dramatic changes to the social order...

, later Mayor
Mayor
In many countries, a Mayor is the highest ranking officer in the municipal government of a town or a large urban city....

 of Birmingham and a dominant figure in Liberal
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 and Unionist
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 politics at the end of the 19th century. His mother, the former Harriet Kenrick, died in childbirth.
Quotations

[I believe in] the throne...parliamentary institutions...private enterprise and individual opinion against the socialization of the state...equity in the distribution of public burdens and strict maintenance of public faith with the creditors of the state [and] a fresh guarantee of peace by an alliance with France and...Belgium for the defence of our common interests against unprovoked attack.

Speech to the Oxford Carlton Club (March 3, 1922).

The danger which threatens us comes from Labour...Those who think that the Conservative or Unionist Party, standing as such and disavowing its Liberal allies, could return with a working majority are living in a fools paradise and, if they persist, may easily involve themselves and the country in dangers the outcome of which it is hard to predict.

Letter to Parker Smith (11 October, 1922).

I tell you I look forward with terror to her [Germany] making war upon us again in ten years.

1925. Quoted in Sir Charles Petrie, The Life and Letters of Sir Austen Chamberlain: Vol. II (Cassell, 1940), p. 263.

No British Government ever will and ever can risk the bones of a British grenadier.

On the Polish Corridor in a letter to Sir Eyre Crowe|Eyre Crowe. (16 February, 1925).

We have a peculair interest because the true defence of our country, owing to scientific development, is now no longer the Channel...but upon the Rhine.

Speech at the Imperial Conference, 1926.

Scratch me and you will find the Nonconformist.

1927. Quoted in Sir Charles Petrie, The Life and Letters of Sir Austen Chamberlain: Vol. II (Cassell, 1940), p. 321.

Encyclopedia
Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain, KG
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

 (16 October 1863 – 17 March 1937) was a British statesman
Statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 and half-brother of Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

.

Early life and career

Austen Chamberlain was born in Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, the second child and eldest son of Joseph Chamberlain
Joseph Chamberlain
Joseph Chamberlain was an influential British politician and statesman. Unlike most major politicians of the time, he was a self-made businessman and had not attended Oxford or Cambridge University....

, then a rising industrialist and political radical
Radicalism (historical)
The term Radical was used during the late 18th century for proponents of the Radical Movement. It later became a general pejorative term for those favoring or seeking political reforms which include dramatic changes to the social order...

, later Mayor
Mayor
In many countries, a Mayor is the highest ranking officer in the municipal government of a town or a large urban city....

 of Birmingham and a dominant figure in Liberal
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 and Unionist
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 politics at the end of the 19th century. His mother, the former Harriet Kenrick, died in childbirth. Joseph Chamberlain was so shaken by this event that for almost twenty-five years he maintained a distance from his first-born son. In 1868, Joseph married Harriet's cousin, Florence, and had further children, the oldest of whom, Neville
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

, would become Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 in the year of Austen's death.

Austen was educated first at Rugby School
Rugby School
Rugby School is a co-educational day and boarding school located in the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England. It is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain.-History:...

, before passing on to Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

. While at Trinity College, he became a lifelong friend of F.S. Oliver
F.S. Oliver
Frederick Scott Oliver, or F.S. Oliver , was a prominent British political writer and businessman who advocated tariff reform and imperial union for the British Empire. He played an important role in the Round Table movement, collaborated in the downfall of Prime Minister H.H...

, a future advocate of Imperial Federation
Imperial Federation
Imperial Federation was a late-19th early-20th century proposal to create a federated union in place of the existing British Empire.-Motivators:...

 and, after 1909, a prominent member of the Round Table movement. Chamberlain made his first political address in 1884 at a meeting of the university's Political Society and was vice-president of the Cambridge Union Society
Cambridge Union Society
The Cambridge Union Society, commonly referred to as simply "the Cambridge Union" or "the Union," is a debating society in Cambridge, England and is the largest society at the University of Cambridge. Since its founding in 1815, the Union has developed a worldwide reputation as a noted symbol of...

.

It would seem that from an early age his father had intended for politics to be Austen's future path and with this in mind he was sent first to France, where he studied at the Paris Institute of Political Studies and developed a lasting admiration for the French people and culture. For nine months, he was shown the brilliance of Paris under the Third Republic
French Third Republic
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

, and met and dined with the likes of Georges Clemenceau
Georges Clemenceau
Georges Benjamin Clemenceau was a French statesman, physician and journalist. He served as the Prime Minister of France from 1906 to 1909, and again from 1917 to 1920. For nearly the final year of World War I he led France, and was one of the major voices behind the Treaty of Versailles at the...

 and Alexandre Ribot
Alexandre Ribot
Alexandre-Félix-Joseph Ribot was a French politician, four times Prime Minister.-Biography:He was born in Saint-Omer, Pas-de-Calais.After a brilliant academic career at the University of Paris, where he was lauréat of the faculty of law, he rapidly made his mark at the bar...

.

From Paris, Austen was sent to Berlin for twelve months, to imbibe the political culture of the other great European power, Germany. Though in his letters home to Beatrice and Neville he showed an obvious preference for France and the lifestyle he had left behind there, Chamberlain undertook to learn German and learn from his experience in the capital of the Kaiserreich
Kaiserreich
Kaiserreich is the German term for a monarchical empire. Literally a Kaiser's Reich, an emperor's domain or realm. When the proper term is used without disambiguation, it is assumed in Germany to refer to the German Empire of 1871-1918, during which the large majority of historically-independent...

. Among others, Austen met and dined with the “Iron Chancellor” Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

, an experience which was to hold a special place in his heart for the duration of his life.

While attending the University of Berlin, Austen developed a suspicion of the growing nationalism in the German Empire. This was based upon his experience of the lecturing style of Heinrich von Treitschke
Heinrich von Treitschke
Heinrich Gotthard von Treitschke was a nationalist German historian and political writer during the time of the German Empire.-Early life and teaching career:...

, who opened up to him "a new side of the German character - a narrow-minded, proud, intolerant Prussian chauvinism", the consequences of which he was later to ponder during the First World War and the crises of the 1930s.

Austen returned to the United Kingdom in 1888, lured largely by the prize of a parliamentary constituency.

He was first elected to parliament as a member of his father's own Liberal Unionist Party
Liberal Unionist Party
The Liberal Unionist Party was a British political party that was formed in 1886 by a faction that broke away from the Liberal Party. Led by Lord Hartington and Joseph Chamberlain, the party formed a political alliance with the Conservative Party in opposition to Irish Home Rule...

 in 1892, sitting for the seat of East Worcestershire
East Worcestershire (UK Parliament constituency)
East Worcestershire was a county constituency in the county of Worcestershire, represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....

. Owing to the prominence of his father and the alliance between the anti-Home Rule
Home rule
Home rule is the power of a constituent part of a state to exercise such of the state's powers of governance within its own administrative area that have been devolved to it by the central government....

 Liberal Unionists and Conservatives
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

, Chamberlain was returned unopposed on 30 March, and at the first sitting of the new session he walked up the floor of the house flanked by his father and his uncle Richard
Richard Chamberlain (politician)
Richard Chamberlain was a Liberal and later Liberal Unionist politician in the United Kingdom.The younger brother of Joseph Chamberlain, he was Mayor of Birmingham from 1879 to 1880, and later Member of Parliament for Islington West from 1885 to 1892.- References:...

.

Owing to the dissolution of parliament and the August general election
United Kingdom general election, 1892
The 1892 United Kingdom general election was held from 4 July to 26 July 1892. It saw the Conservatives, led by Lord Salisbury, win the greatest number of seats, but not enough for an overall majority as William Ewart Gladstone's Liberals won many more seats than in the 1886 general election...

, Chamberlain was unable to make his maiden speech until April 1893. This speech, when delivered, was acclaimed by the four-time Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

 as “one of the best speeches which has been made”. That Chamberlain was speaking against Gladstone’s Second Home Rule
Home rule
Home rule is the power of a constituent part of a state to exercise such of the state's powers of governance within its own administrative area that have been devolved to it by the central government....

 Bill does not seem to have dampened the enthusiasm of the Prime Minister, who responded by publicly congratulating both Austen and his father Joseph on such an excellent performance. This was highly significant, given the bad blood existing between Joseph Chamberlain and his former leader.

Appointed a junior Whip of the Liberal Unionists after the general election, Austen’s main role was to act as his father’s “standard bearer” in matters of policy. Following the Conservative and Unionist landslide win in the election of 1895, Chamberlain was appointed a Civil Lord of the Admiralty, holding that post until 1900, when he became Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Financial Secretary to the Treasury is a junior Ministerial post in the British Treasury. It is the 4th most significant Ministerial role within the Treasury after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and the Paymaster General...

. In 1902, following the retirement of Prime Minister Salisbury, Chamberlain was promoted to the position of Postmaster General
United Kingdom Postmaster General
The Postmaster General of the United Kingdom is a defunct Cabinet-level ministerial position in HM Government. Aside from maintaining the postal system, the Telegraph Act of 1868 established the Postmaster General's right to exclusively maintain electric telegraphs...

 by the new premier, the Conservative Arthur Balfour
Arthur Balfour
Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, KG, OM, PC, DL was a British Conservative politician and statesman...

.

In the wake of the struggle between his father and Balfour, Austen Chamberlain became Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

 in 1903. Austen's appointment was largely a compromise solution to the bitter division of the two Unionist heavyweights, which threatened to split the coalition between supporters of Chamberlain's Imperial Tariff campaign and Balfour's more cautious advocacy of protectionism. While Austen supported his father’s programme, his influence within the cabinet was diminished following the departure of the senior Chamberlain to the back benches. Facing a resurgent Liberal opposition and the threat of an internal party split, Balfour eventually took the Unionists into opposition in December 1905, and in the ensuing rout in the election of 1906
United Kingdom general election, 1906
-Seats summary:-See also:*MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1906*The Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918-External links:***-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987**...

, Austen Chamberlain found himself one of the few surviving Liberal Unionists in the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

.

After his father's stroke and enforced retirement from active politics a few months later, Austen became the effective leader of the Tariff Reform campaign within the Unionist Party, and thus a contender for the eventual leadership of the party itself.

Leadership questions

With the Unionists in disarray after two successive electoral defeats
United Kingdom general election, 1910
There were two general elections held in the United Kingdom in 1910:*United Kingdom general election, January 1910 was held from 15 January – 10 February 1910....

 in 1910, Balfour was forced from his position as party leader in November 1911. Chamberlain was one of the leading candidates to succeed as Conservative leader, even though he was still technically a member of the Liberal Unionist wing of the coalition (the two parties merged formally in 1912). Chamberlain was opposed by Canadian-born Andrew Bonar Law, Walter Long and the Irish Unionist Sir Edward Carson
Edward Carson, Baron Carson
Edward Henry Carson, Baron Carson PC, PC , Kt, QC , often known as Sir Edward Carson or Lord Carson, was a barrister, judge and politician from Ireland...

. Given their standing in the party, only Chamberlain and Long had a realistic chance of success and though Balfour had intended Chamberlain to succeed him, it became clear from an early canvass of the sitting MPs that Long would be elected by a slender margin. After a short period of internal party campaigning, Chamberlain determined to withdraw from the contest for the good of the still-divided party. He succeeded in persuading Long to withdraw with him, in favour of Bonar Law, who was subsequently chosen by unanimous vote as a compromise candidate.

Chamberlain's action, though it prevented him from attaining the party leadership, and arguably ultimately the premiership, did a great deal to maintain unity within the Conservative and Liberal Unionist parties at a time of great uncertainty and strain.

His views on Irish Home Rule

In the last years before the outbreak of the Great War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Chamberlain was concerned with one issue above all others: Home Rule
Home rule
Home rule is the power of a constituent part of a state to exercise such of the state's powers of governance within its own administrative area that have been devolved to it by the central government....

 for Ireland. The issue which had prompted his father to split the Liberal Party in the 1880s now threatened to spill over into outright civil war, with the government of Herbert Asquith
H. H. Asquith
Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, KG, PC, KC served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916...

 committed to the passage of a Third Home Rule Bill
Home Rule Act 1914
The Government of Ireland Act 1914 , also known as the Third Home Rule Bill, was an Act passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom intended to provide self-government for Ireland within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.The Act was the first law ever passed by the Parliament of...

. Chamberlain was resolutely opposed to the dissolution of the Union with Ireland, and to the strain of these years was added the death of his father in July 1914, only a few days after the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
Franz Ferdinand was an Archduke of Austria-Este, Austro-Hungarian and Royal Prince of Hungary and of Bohemia, and from 1889 until his death, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His assassination in Sarajevo precipitated Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia...

 began the train of events which led to the First World War.

First World War

Pressure from the Conservative opposition, in part led by Chamberlain, eventually resulted in the formation of the wartime coalition government
Coalition government
A coalition government is a cabinet of a parliamentary government in which several political parties cooperate. The usual reason given for this arrangement is that no party on its own can achieve a majority in the parliament...

, in 1915. Chamberlain joined the cabinet as Secretary of State for India
Secretary of State for India
The Secretary of State for India, or India Secretary, was the British Cabinet minister responsible for the government of India and the political head of the India Office...

 and remained at the India Office after Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

 succeeded Asquith as Prime Minister in late 1916, but following the failure of various British campaigns in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamian Campaign
The Mesopotamian campaign was a campaign in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I fought between the Allies represented by the British Empire, mostly troops from the Indian Empire, and the Central Powers, mostly of the Ottoman Empire.- Background :...

 (undertaken by the separately-administered Indian Army
British Indian Army
The British Indian Army, officially simply the Indian Army, was the principal army of the British Raj in India before the partition of India in 1947...

), Chamberlain resigned his post in 1917, not because of any failures on his part, but rather according to his principles: he was the minister ultimately responsible, so the fault lay with him. He was widely acclaimed for such a selfless act.

Later he returned to government and became a member of the War Cabinet
War Cabinet
A War Cabinet is a committee formed by a government in a time of war. It is usually a subset of the full executive cabinet of ministers. It is also quite common for a War Cabinet to have senior military officers and opposition politicians as members....

 in April 1918 as Minister without Portfolio. Following the victory of the Lloyd George coalition in the elections of 1918
United Kingdom general election, 1918
The United Kingdom general election of 1918 was the first to be held after the Representation of the People Act 1918, which meant it was the first United Kingdom general election in which nearly all adult men and some women could vote. Polling was held on 14 December 1918, although the count did...

, Chamberlain was again appointed to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer in January 1919 and immediately faced the huge task of restoring Britain’s finances after four disastrous years of wartime expenditure.

Leadership

Citing ill health, Bonar Law retired from the leadership of the Conservative branch of the Lloyd George government in the spring of 1921. Due to his seniority and the general dislike of Lord Curzon
George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston
George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, KG, GCSI, GCIE, PC , known as The Lord Curzon of Kedleston between 1898 and 1911 and as The Earl Curzon of Kedleston between 1911 and 1921, was a British Conservative statesman who was Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretary...

, his counterpart in the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

, Chamberlain succeeded Bonar Law as Leader of the House of Commons and also took over in the office of Lord Privy Seal
Lord Privy Seal
The Lord Privy Seal is the fifth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain. The office is one of the traditional sinecure offices of state...

. He was succeeded at the Exchequer by Sir Robert Horne, and it seemed that after ten years of waiting, Austen would again be given the opportunity of succeeding to the premiership. The Lloyd George coalition was beginning to falter, following numerous scandals and the unsuccessful conclusion of the Anglo-Irish War, and it was widely believed that it would not survive until the next general election. Though he had previously had little regard for Lloyd George, the opportunity of working closely with the “Welsh Wizard” gave Chamberlain a new insight into his nominal superior in the government (by now, the Conservative Party was by far the largest partner in the government).

This was an unfortunate change of allegiance for Chamberlain, for by late 1921 the Conservative rank-and-file was growing more and more restless for an end to the coalition and a return to single-party (and therefore Conservative) government. Conservatives in the House of Lords began to publicly oppose the coalition, and disregarded calls for support from Chamberlain. In the country at large Conservative candidates began to oppose the coalition at by-elections and this discontent spread to the House of Commons. In the autumn of 1922, Chamberlain faced a backbench revolt (largely led by Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

) designed to oust Lloyd George, and when he summoned a meeting of Conservative MPs
Carlton Club meeting, 19 October 1922
The Carlton Club meeting on 19 October 1922 was a formal meeting of Members of Parliament who belonged to the Conservative Party, called to discuss whether the party should remain in government in coalition with a section of the Liberal Party under the leadership of Liberal Prime Minister David...

 at the Carlton Club
Carlton Club
The Carlton Club is a gentlemen's club in London which describes itself as the "oldest, most elite, and most important of all Conservative clubs." Membership of the club is by nomination and election only.-History:...

 on 19 October, a motion was passed in favour of fighting the forthcoming election as an independent party. Chamberlain resigned the party leadership rather than act against what he believed to be his duty, and was succeeded by Bonar Law, whose views and intentions he had divined the evening before the vote at a private meeting. Bonar Law formed a government shortly thereafter, but Chamberlain was not given a post nor, it would seem, would have he accepted a position had it been offered.

Chamberlain and his half-brother Neville and Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith
George Iain Duncan Smith is a British Conservative politician. He is currently the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and was previously leader of the Conservative Party from September 2001 to October 2003...

 are the only Conservative leaders not to lead the party into a general election.

Foreign Secretary

At the second resignation of Bonar Law in May 1923 (Law would die from throat cancer later the same year), Chamberlain was passed over again for the leadership of the party in favour of Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

. Baldwin offered Chamberlain the post of Lord Privy Seal, but Chamberlain insisted that other former ministers from the Coalition should be included as well and Baldwin refused. However Chamberlain did return to government when Baldwin formed his second ministry following success in the election of October 1924, serving in the important office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from 1924 to 1929. In this office, Chamberlain was largely allowed a free hand by the easygoing Baldwin.

It is as Foreign Secretary that Chamberlain’s place in history was finally assured. In a difficult period in international relations, Chamberlain not only faced a split in the Entente Cordiale
Entente Cordiale
The Entente Cordiale was a series of agreements signed on 8 April 1904 between the United Kingdom and the French Republic. Beyond the immediate concerns of colonial expansion addressed by the agreement, the signing of the Entente Cordiale marked the end of almost a millennium of intermittent...

 occasioned by the French invasion of the Ruhr
Ruhr
The Ruhr is a medium-size river in western Germany , a right tributary of the Rhine.-Description:The source of the Ruhr is near the town of Winterberg in the mountainous Sauerland region, at an elevation of approximately 2,200 feet...

, but also the controversy over the Geneva Protocol (1924)
Geneva Protocol (1924)
The Geneva Protocol for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes was adopted by all 47 members of the League of Nations on 2 October 1924....

, which threatened to dilute British sovereignty over the issue of League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 economic sanctions.

The triumph of Locarno

Despite the importance to history of these pressing issues, Chamberlain’s reputation chiefly rests on his part in the negotiations over what came to be known as the Locarno Pact of 1925. Seeking to maintain the post-war status quo in the West, Chamberlain responded favourably to the approaches of the German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann
Gustav Stresemann
was a German politician and statesman who served as Chancellor and Foreign Minister during the Weimar Republic. He was co-laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926.Stresemann's politics defy easy categorization...

 for a British guarantee of Germany’s western borders. Besides for promoting Franco-German reconciliation, Chamberlain's main motive was to create a situation where Germany could pursue territorial revisionism in Eastern Europe peacefully. Chamberlain's understanding was that if Franco-German relations improved, France would gradually abandon the Cordon sanitaire
Cordon sanitaire
Cordon sanitaire — or quarantine line — is a French phrase that, literally translated, means "sanitary cordon". Though in French it originally denoted a barrier implemented to stop the spread of disease, it has often been used in English in a metaphorical sense to refer to attempts to prevent the...

, as the French alliance system in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 was known between the wars. Once France had abandoned its allies in Eastern Europe as the price of better relations with the Reich, this would create a situation where the Poles and Czechoslovaks having no Great Power ally to protect them, would be forced to adjust to German demands, and hence in Chamberlain's view would peacefully hand over the territories claimed by Germany such as the Sudetenland
Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

, the Polish Corridor
Polish Corridor
The Polish Corridor , also known as Danzig Corridor, Corridor to the Sea or Gdańsk Corridor, was a territory located in the region of Pomerelia , which provided the Second Republic of Poland with access to the Baltic Sea, thus dividing the bulk of Germany from the province of East...

 and the Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig
The Free City of Danzig was a semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig and surrounding areas....

 (modern Gdańsk
Gdansk
Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast, at the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay , in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the...

, Poland) In this way, promoting territorial revisionism in Eastern Europe in Germany’s favour was one of Chamberlain's principal reasons for Locarno, and thus Locarno was from the British viewpoint an early instance of Appeasement
Appeasement
The term appeasement is commonly understood to refer to a diplomatic policy aimed at avoiding war by making concessions to another power. Historian Paul Kennedy defines it as "the policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and...

.

Together with Aristide Briand
Aristide Briand
Aristide Briand was a French statesman who served eleven terms as Prime Minister of France during the French Third Republic and received the 1926 Nobel Peace Prize.- Early life :...

 of France, Chamberlain and Stresemann met at the town of Locarno
Locarno
Locarno is the capital of the Locarno district, located on the northern tip of Lake Maggiore in the Swiss canton of Ticino, close to Ascona at the foot of the Alps. It has a population of about 15,000...

 in October 1925 and signed a mutual agreement (together with representatives from Belgium and Italy) to settle all differences between the nations by arbitration and never resort to war. For his services, Chamberlain was not only awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

, but was made a Knight of the Order of the Garter
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

. Chamberlain also secured Britain's accession to the Kellogg-Briand Pact
Kellogg-Briand Pact
The Kellogg–Briand Pact was an agreement signed on August 27, 1928, by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Weimar Germany and a number of other countries.The pact renounced war , prohibiting the use of war...

, which theoretically outlawed war as an instrument of policy. Chamberlain famously said that Italian dictator Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 was "a man with whom business could be done".

Later career

Following his less-satisfactory engagement in issues in the Far East and Egypt, and the resignation of Baldwin’s government after the election of 1929, Chamberlain resigned his position as Foreign Secretary and went into retirement. He briefly returned to government in 1931 as First Lord of the Admiralty in Ramsay MacDonald
Ramsay MacDonald
James Ramsay MacDonald, PC, FRS was a British politician who was the first ever Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority government for two terms....

's first National Government
UK National Government
In the United Kingdom the term National Government is an abstract concept referring to a coalition of some or all major political parties. In a historical sense it usually refers primarily to the governments of Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain which held office from 1931...

, but soon retired after having been forced to deal with the unfortunate Invergordon Mutiny
Invergordon Mutiny
The Invergordon Mutiny was an industrial action by around 1,000 sailors in the British Atlantic Fleet, that took place on 15–16 September 1931...

.

Over the next six years as a senior backbencher he gave strong support to the National Government
UK National Government
In the United Kingdom the term National Government is an abstract concept referring to a coalition of some or all major political parties. In a historical sense it usually refers primarily to the governments of Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain which held office from 1931...

 but was critical of their foreign policy
Appeasement
The term appeasement is commonly understood to refer to a diplomatic policy aimed at avoiding war by making concessions to another power. Historian Paul Kennedy defines it as "the policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and...

. In 1935 the government faced a parliamentary rebellion over the Hoare-Laval Pact
Hoare-Laval Pact
The Hoare-Laval Pact was a December 1935 proposal by British Foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare and French Prime Minister Pierre Laval for ending the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. Italy had wanted to take Abyssinia as part of its empire, and have an empire like the Romans had, and also to avenge...

 and Austen’s opposition to the vote of censure is widely believed to have been instrumental in saving the government from defeat on the floor of the House. Chamberlain was again briefly considered for the post of Foreign Secretary, but it is safe to assume that he would have refused if ever asked. Instead his advice was sought as to the suitability of his former Parliamentary Private Secretary
Parliamentary Private Secretary
A Parliamentary Private Secretary is a role given to a United Kingdom Member of Parliament by a senior minister in government or shadow minister to act as their contact for the House of Commons; this role is junior to that of Parliamentary Under-Secretary, which is a ministerial post, salaried by...

, now Minister for the League of Nations, Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden
Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, KG, MC, PC was a British Conservative politician, who was Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957...

 for the post. Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 claims in his memoirs that had this crisis ended differently Chamberlain may have been called upon as a respected statesman to form a government of his own, but this view is not widely supported, and may be in part due to Chamberlain’s position as the first public champion of what later became Churchill’s great cause – opposition to the German Nazi government of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

.

Last great service

During the period 1934 to 1937, Chamberlain was, with Winston Churchill, Roger Keyes and Leo Amery, the most prominent voice calling for British rearmament in the face of a growing threat from Nazi
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 Germany. In addition to speaking eloquently in Parliament on the matter, he was the chairman of two Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 parliamentary delegations in late 1936 which met with the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

, to remonstrate with him about his government’s delay in rearming the British defence forces. More respected in this period than Churchill, Chamberlain became something of an icon to young Conservatives, as the last survivor of the Victorian Age of high politics.

Though he never again served in a government, Sir Austen Chamberlain survived in good health until March 1937, dying just ten weeks before his half-brother Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

 finally became the first (and only) member of the distinguished Chamberlain dynasty to become Prime Minister.

Chamberlain died on 17 March 1937 aged 73.

His estate was probated at 45,044 pounds sterling, a relatively modest sum for such a famous public figure. Much of his father's fortune had been lost in an attempt to grow sisal in the West Indies in the early 1890s, and unlike his younger brother Neville, Austen never went into business to make money for himself.

The personal and political papers of Sir Austen Chamberlain are housed in the Special Collections of the main library of the University of Birmingham
University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Birmingham, England. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Birmingham Medical School and Mason Science College . Birmingham was the first Redbrick university to gain a charter and thus...

.

Further reading

For such a prominent historical figure, Chamberlain has had very little attention from academics. The official biography by Sir Charles Petrie
Charles Petrie
Sir Charles Alexander Petrie, 3rd Baronet was a popular historian. Of Irish lineage, but born in Liverpool, he was educated at Oxford, and in 1927 succeeded to the family baronetcy....

 is reputable although the more recent work by David Dutton is a far more balanced account. Dutton is widely regarded as the expert on Austen Chamberlain although he disagrees with Richard Grayson’s assessment of Chamberlain’s views on France and Germany. Peter Marsh, author of the most recent biography of Joseph Chamberlain, is currently studying the Chamberlain family. Richard Scully is investigating Sir Austen’s year in Germany and its subsequent effect on his opinions and politics.
  • David Dutton, Austen Chamberlain – Gentleman in Politics, Bolton: R. Anderson, 1985.
  • Richard Grayson, Austen Chamberlain and the Commitment to Europe: British Foreign Policy, 1924-1929, London: Frank Cass, 1997.
  • Sir Charles Petrie
    Charles Petrie
    Sir Charles Alexander Petrie, 3rd Baronet was a popular historian. Of Irish lineage, but born in Liverpool, he was educated at Oxford, and in 1927 succeeded to the family baronetcy....

    , The Chamberlain Tradition, London: Lovat Dickson Limited, 1938.
  • Sir Charles Petrie, The Life and Letters of the Right Hon. Sir Austen Chamberlain, London: Cassell & Co., 1939.
  • Robert C. Self (ed.), The Austen Chamberlain Diary Letters: The Correspondence of Sir Austen Chamberlain with his Sisters Hilda and Ida, 1916-1937, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

External links


Offices held

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