E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax
Overview
 
Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, (16 April 1881 – 23 December 1959), known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and as The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was one of the most senior British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 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...

 politicians of the 1930s, during which he held several senior ministerial posts, most notably as Foreign Secretary from 1938 to 1940. As such he is often regarded as one of the architects of the policy 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...

 prior to World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.
Quotations

Instead of deluding public opinion with a notion that a sufficient application of force will provide a remedy, a wiser course would be to set about taking such steps as may be the means of recovering that consent without which society in Ireland cannot exist...[an offer should be made to the Irish] conceived on the most generous lines.

Speech in Parliament on the Irish insurgency after the Great War. Quoted in Lord Birkenhead, Halifax (Hamish Hamilton, 1965), pp. 121-2.

Though I am, as you know, a pacifist by nature, I am not disposed to go to all lengths to meet people who seem to be behaving with utter unreason.

Letter to William Wedgwood Benn, quoted in Birkenhead, p. 275.

[It is] a question of personal appeal and conviction, rather than any argument. The cards I fancy are sympathy, understanding of his hopes, suspicions and disappointments, but above all, striving to convey to him, through what one says, a real echo of the sincerity that pervaded your doings in London.

Letter of 16 February, 1931. Quoted in Birkenhead, p. 296.

[The Hore-Laval proposals] were not so frightfully different from those put forward by the Committee of Five. But the latter were of respectable parentage: and the Paris ones were too much like the off-the-stage arrangements of nineteenth-century diplomacy.

In 1935. Quoted in Keith Feiling, A Life of Neville Chamberlain (Macmillan, 1970), p. 275.

Nothing was more likely to aggravate the difficulties of the present situation than any suggestions that our ultimate objective was to unite France, Italy and ourselves against Germany.

To the Cabinet (15 March, 1938).

Encyclopedia
Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, (16 April 1881 – 23 December 1959), known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and as The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was one of the most senior British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 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...

 politicians of the 1930s, during which he held several senior ministerial posts, most notably as Foreign Secretary from 1938 to 1940. As such he is often regarded as one of the architects of the policy 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...

 prior to World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. During the war, he served as British Ambassador in Washington.

Early career

He was born into a rather sickly West Country
West Country
The West Country is an informal term for the area of south western England roughly corresponding to the modern South West England government region. It is often defined to encompass the historic counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset and the City of Bristol, while the counties of...

 family: Halifax's three older brothers all died in infancy leaving him the heir to his father's viscountcy. Halifax himself was born with a withered left arm with no hand, a disability that in no way affected his riding, hunting or shooting. He was nicknamed the "Holy Fox" by 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...

 in reference to these pursuits, his title and also his religiosity
Religiosity
Religiosity, in its broadest sense, is a comprehensive sociological term used to refer to the numerous aspects of religious activity, dedication, and belief . Another term that would work equally well, though is less often used, is religiousness...

, for like his father he was a devout Anglo-Catholic.

He was son of the 2nd Viscount Halifax
Charles Wood, 2nd Viscount Halifax
Charles Lindley Wood, 2nd Viscount Halifax was a British ecumenist who served as president of the English Church Union from 1868 to 1919, and from 1927 to 1934.-Early life and education:...

. He was educated at Eton
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 and Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

, subsequently becoming a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford
All Souls College, Oxford
The Warden and the College of the Souls of all Faithful People deceased in the University of Oxford or All Souls College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England....

, and served as Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 for Ripon
Ripon (UK Parliament constituency)
Ripon was a constituency sending members to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom until 1983, centred on the city of Ripon in North Yorkshire.-History:...

 from 1910 to 1925 when he was elevated to the peerage. He saw some active service in World War I
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...

 as a major in the Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons
Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons
The Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons was a unit of the British Army from 1794–1956.The regiment was formed as volunteer cavalry in 1794 during the French Revolutionary Wars. It was converted to an armoured role during World War II. In 1956 it merged with two other Yorkshire yeomanry regiments...

 but remained mostly behind the lines, being moved to a desk job in 1917. In 1918 he wrote in cooperation with George Ambrose Lloyd (later The Lord Lloyd) "The Great Opportunity" aiming to set an agenda for a revived Conservative Party separate from the Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

 coalition.

Turned down by South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 for the post of Governor General (the country was holding out for a cabinet minister or member of the royal family) and snubbed by Winston Churchill on his assumption of the post of Under-Secretary for the Colonies — on one occasion he stormed into Churchill's office and told him that he "expected to be treated like a gentleman"—a thwarted Wood voted for the downfall of Lloyd George's government and became President of the Board of Education under Andrew Bonar Law in 1922. He held this position (in which he was neither interested nor particularly effective) until 1924 when he was apparently equally undistinguished as Minister for Agriculture
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was a UK cabinet position, responsible for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The post was originally named President of the Board of Agriculture and was created in 1889...

 under 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...

. His career had seemingly become bogged down.

Viceroy of India

Wood was Viceroy of India from 1926 to 1931. In 1925 he had been proposed at the suggestion of King George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

, no doubt mindful of his immediate family background (his grandfather had been 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 immaculate pedigree. Created Baron Irwin, he arrived in Bombay on 1 April 1926 hoping to improve Anglo-Indian relations and calm interfaith tensions in the country.

Irwin's rule was marked by a period of great political turmoil. The exclusion of Indians from the Simon Commission
Simon Commission
The Indian Statutory Commission was a group of seven British Members of Parliament that had been dispatched to India in 1927 to study constitutional reform in Britain's most important colonial dependency. It was commonly referred to as the Simon Commission after its chairman, Sir John Simon...

 examining the country's readiness for self-government provoked serious violence, and Irwin was forced into concessions which were poorly received—in London as excessive, and in India as half-hearted. Incidents included: the protests against the Simon Commission Report; the Nehru Report
Nehru Report
The "Nehru Report" was a memorandum outlining a proposed new Dominion constitution for India. It was prepared by a committee of the All Parties Conference chaired by Motilal Nehru with his son Jawaharlal acting as secretary...

; the All-Parties Conference; the Muslim League leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah's 14 points
Fourteen Points of Jinnah
The Fourteen Points of Jinnah were proposed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah as a constitutional reform plan to safeguard the political rights of Muslims in a self-governing India. The report was given in a meeting of the council of the All India Muslim League on March 28, 1929.-The Fourteen Points:1...

; the Civil Disobedience Movement
Salt Satyagraha
The Salt March, also known as the Salt Satyagrahah began with the Dandi March on March 12, 1930, and was an important part of the Indian independence movement. It was a campaign of tax resistance and nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly in colonial India, and triggered the wider...

 launched by the Indian National Congress
Indian National Congress
The Indian National Congress is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is the largest and one of the oldest democratic political parties in the world. The party's modern liberal platform is largely considered center-left in the Indian...

 under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi; and the Round Table Conferences.

Irwin had all the Congress leaders put behind bars; and then had opened negotiations with Gandhi. Some criticism of Irwin may have been unfair, but he had made an error and the consequences were serious and unrest grew. Irwin's attempts to mediate with Indian leaders were stymied by London's refusal to make concessions, or clarify the position on dominion status.

With little room for manoeuvre, Irwin resorted to repression using his emergency powers to arrest Gandhi, ban public gatherings and crush rebellious opposition, leading to the death of Lala Lajpat Rai
Lala Lajpat Rai
Lala Lajpat Rai was an Indian author, freedom fighter and politician who is chiefly remembered as a leader in the Indian fight for freedom from the British Raj. He was popularly known as Punjab Kesari or Sher-e-Punjab meaning the samem and was part of the Lal Bal Pal trio...

 and the revenge attack of Bhagat Singh. Gandhi's detention, however, only made matters worse. Irwin ultimately opted to negotiate, signing the Delhi Pact in January 1931 which ended civil disobedience and the boycott of British goods in exchange for a Round Table Conference which represented all interests. The fortnight-long discussions resulted in the Gandhi-Irwin Pact
Gandhi-Irwin Pact
Gandhi–Irwin Pact refers to a political agreement signed by Mahatma Gandhi and the then Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin on 5 March 1931 before the second Round Table Conference in London...

, after which the Civil Disobedience Movement was suspended.

The agreement between Gandhi and Irwin was signed on March 5, 1931. The salient points were:
  • The Congress would discontinue the Civil Disobedience Movement.
  • The Congress would participate in the Round Table Conference.
  • The Government would withdraw all ordinances issued to curb the Congress.
  • The Government would withdraw all prosecutions relating to offences not involving violence.
  • The Government would release all persons serving sentences of imprisonment for their activities in the civil disobedience movement.


It was also agreed that Gandhi would join the Second Round Table Conference as the sole representative of the Congress.

On March 20, 1931, Lord Irwin paid tribute to Gandhi's honesty, sincerity and patriotism at a dinner given by ruling princes. A month following the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, Lord Irwin retired and left India. On Irwin's return to England in April 1931, the situation was calm, but within a year the conference collapsed and Gandhi was again arrested.

Despite the mixed outcomes Halifax was overall a successful Viceroy; he had charted a clear and balanced course, and had not lost the confidence of his home government. He had demonstrated toughness and independence. His successful term as Viceroy ensured that he returned to British politics with significant prestige.

Halifax and foreign policy

The same year Irwin turned down the position of Foreign Secretary in favour of time at home. Still a firm protege of 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...

's, Irwin returned to Education in 1932, a position enlivened by his continuing (now backroom) role in Indian politics, his attainment of the position of Master of the Middleton Hunt in 1932 and his election as Chancellor of Oxford University in 1933. In 1934 he inherited the title Viscount Halifax from his father. In the period that followed he held a succession of government posts: Secretary of State for War
Secretary of State for War
The position of Secretary of State for War, commonly called War Secretary, was a British cabinet-level position, first held by Henry Dundas . In 1801 the post became that of Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. The position was re-instated in 1854...

 for five months in 1935, 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...

 (1935–1937) and Lord President of the Council
Lord President of the Council
The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Treasurer and above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends each meeting of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval...

 (1937–1938) under Stanley Baldwin and, after 1937, 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...

.

The appointment of 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...

 as Foreign Secretary in 1935 seemed initially to tie in well with Halifax's feelings about the direction of foreign policy. The two were in agreement (and in line with prevailing opinion throughout Britain) that Germany's reoccupation of the Rhineland
Remilitarization of the Rhineland
The Remilitarization of the Rhineland by the German Army took place on 7 March 1936 when German military forces entered the Rhineland. This was significant because it violated the terms of the Locarno Treaties and was the first time since the end of World War I that German troops had been in this...

—its "own backyard"—would be difficult to oppose and should be welcomed insofar as it continued Germany's seeming progress towards normality after the tribulations of the post-World War I settlement. However, after Chamberlain succeeded Baldwin in 1937, the new prime minister began increasingly to intervene directly in foreign policy, activity for which his background had not prepared him, and which caused increasing tension with Eden.

Halifax said the Hoare-Laval proposals
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...

 "were not so frightfully different from those put forward by the Committee of Five. But the latter were of respectable parentage: and the Paris ones were too much like the off-the-stage arrangements of nineteenth-century diplomacy".

In November 1937 Halifax went to Germany at the invitation of Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 on the pretext of a hunting exhibition. (Göring himself was a passionate hunter and gave Halifax the nickname Halalifax, after Halali!, a German hunting call.) However, Halifax was publicly and correctly regarded as acting on behalf of the British government to renew dialogue with the German government. A long and barbed meeting with 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...

 ensued. On meeting the Führer, Halifax almost created an incident by nearly handing his coat to Hitler, believing him to be a footman: "As I looked out of the car window, on eye level, I saw in the middle of this swept path a pair of black trousered legs, finishing up in silk socks and pumps. I assumed this was a footman who had come down to help me out of the car and up the steps, and was proceeding in leisurely fashion to get myself out of the car when I heard Von Neurath or somebody throwing a hoarse whisper at my ear of ‘Der Fuhrer, de Fuhrer’; and it then dawned upon me that the legs were not the legs of a footman, but of Hitler". In subsequent discussions Halifax ignored Eden's reservations and indicated clearly to Hitler that German designs on Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 and parts of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 were not regarded as illegitimate by the British, but that only peaceful processes of change would be acceptable. Writing to Baldwin on the subject of the conversation between Karl Burckhardt (the League of Nations' Commissioner of Danzig) and Hitler, Halifax said: "Nationalism and Racialism is a powerful force but I can't feel that it's either unnatural or immoral!. I cannot myself doubt that these fellows are genuine haters of Communism, etc.! And I daresay if we were in their position we might feel the same!"

The following year Eden resigned, exasperated by the continued interference of the Prime Minister in foreign affairs and his increasingly determined policy of appeasement (particularly of 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....

, whom Eden regarded as an untrustworthy gangster). For Halifax, as for Chamberlain and the Chiefs of Staff, every effort had to be made to prevent an alignment of the three great threats to peace and the British Empire: Italy, Germany and Japan. Halifax replaced Eden as Foreign Secretary in February 1938.

Halifax's political line as Foreign Secretary must be seen in the context of existing British foreign policy, which was predicated on a broad consensus that in none of the democracies was there popular support for war, military pressure or even rearmament. There was debate about the extent to which the dictatorships' very separate interests could be teased apart. It was clear that an alignment of Germany and Italy would divide Britain's forces in any general war; and that, without at least a neutral Italy, Britain would be unable to move large naval forces east to confront Japan, given America's refusal to help. For many, especially in the Foreign Office, appeasement was a necessary compromise to buy time for rearmament, a process to which Britain was already heavily committed. For others, especially Churchill, a strong military alliance with France would permit a more robust foreign policy towards the dictators. Churchill was not unusual in the confidence he placed in the large French Army; he was more isolated in his belief that France would be a resilient ally.
Chamberlain and many others who were deeply opposed to war and defence spending embraced the policy of appeasement as a moral force for good. By comparison, Halifax's policy, like that of Samuel Hoare, appears more pragmatic, coupled to a firm albeit unenthusiastic commitment to rearmament. All parties recognised the hostility of public opinion to war or military preparations, and the difficulty of acting without a readiness on the part of America or Russia to play their part (the Labour party was to oppose rearmament until well after Munich). Nonetheless, Halifax (along with Chamberlain, Hoare and twelve others) was criticized as an appeaser in the anonymous 1940 book Guilty Men
Guilty Men
Guilty Men was a book published in Great Britain in 1940 that attacked British public figures for their appeasement of Nazi Germany in the 1930s...

.

In March 1938 Hitler annexed Austria
Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

 and Czechoslovakia was clearly next on the agenda, with neither Britain nor France having the military capacity to support it. Halifax remained in London at the key moments of the Munich crisis of September 1938, where 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...

's personal intervention was dramatic. It was during the Munich crisis that Halifax began to take a stronger line than Chamberlain against further concessions to Germany. It appears that a frank conversation with his pugnacious Permanent Secretary, Sir Alexander Cadogan brought Halifax to the sharp realisation that the road to appeasement had taken Britain into a series of concessions that were unwise, and that were unlikely to secure the necessary pacification of Germany. From this point on, as Andrew Roberts in particular argues, Halifax set his face firmly towards a policy of deterrence based on increased rearmament, including the reintroduction of conscription; strengthening of alliances and economic support to Eastern Europe; and a firmer line towards Germany, Italy and Japan in the hope that increased British resolution would increase the risks of a combination of all three (of note, when war did begin, neither Japan nor Italy was prepared to join in until the pendulum had swung much further in Germany's favour).

The eventual Munich settlement, though humiliating to many in the British government, while hugely popular around the world, was short of Hitler's desires (and of Chamberlain's proposed concessions) and increased Hitler's determination to return to destroy Czechoslovakia in the spring. In the following months, as Hitler's lack of commitment to the Munich agreement became clearer, Halifax worked steadily to assemble a stronger British position, pushing Chamberlain to take economic steps to underpin British interests in Eastern Europe and prevent additional military supplies (e.g. tungsten
Tungsten
Tungsten , also known as wolfram , is a chemical element with the chemical symbol W and atomic number 74.A hard, rare metal under standard conditions when uncombined, tungsten is found naturally on Earth only in chemical compounds. It was identified as a new element in 1781, and first isolated as...

) from Germany. In particular it was Halifax's immediate granting of a guarantee to Poland on 31 March 1939—triggered by alarming intelligence of German preparations—that set a firm trigger for war should Germany ignore this signal that, in Halifax's words, there would be "no more Munichs".

In early April the Foreign Office received intelligence that Italy was about to invade Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

. Halifax, in a Cabinet meeting on 5 April, rejected these reports. Two days later Italy invaded Albania but Halifax met Sir Alexander Cadogan and "decided we can't do anything to stop it".

In January 1940, Halifax said, in a meeting with an emissary of Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell
Ulrich von Hassell was a German diplomat during World War II. A member of the German Resistance against German dictator Adolf Hitler, Hassell was executed in the aftermath of the failed July 20 plot.- Family :...

, a leading member of the German resistance, that "he personally would be against the Allies taking advantage of a revolution in Germany to attack the Siegfried Line
Siegfried Line
The original Siegfried line was a line of defensive forts and tank defences built by Germany as a section of the Hindenburg Line 1916–1917 in northern France during World War I...

." In July 1940 Halifax rejected German peace offers from the Papal Nuncio in Berne and the Portuguese and Finnish prime ministers.

In May 1940, when the Chamberlain government fell and a coalition was to be formed there were two candidates for Prime Minister: Halifax and Winston Churchill. Halifax had the support of the great mass of the Conservative party, of the royal family, and was acceptable to the Labour party. His position as a peer was a merely technical barrier given the scale of the crisis. But at a meeting with Neville Chamberlain, at which Churchill was also present, Halifax did not press his claim, presumably recognising in Churchill a set of skills better suited to the challenge. Like Chamberlain he served in Churchill's cabinet, frequently exasperated by Churchill's style of doing business.

Ambassador to the United States and later life

Churchill retained Halifax as Foreign Secretary for nine months, but the two men had never enjoyed a close relationship. In the spring of 1940 during heated Cabinet discussions as France teetered towards defeat, Halifax energetically participated in the debates for and against a recourse to total war and lone opposition to Germany, whatever the cost to Britain's long-term military and economic standing. The Cabinet believed that Italian offices might open peace negotiations and broadly speaking Churchill argued that playing for time was in Britain's interest, while Halifax was concerned that should the British Expeditionary Force be destroyed Britain would lose its last bargaining chip. Churchill won the argument, and the BEF was saved at Dunkirk.

Halifax wrote in his memoirs of an occasion during a short holiday in Yorkshire:

"One such interlude early in June 1940 is for ever graven into my memory. It was just after the fall of France, an event which at the time it happened seemed something unbelievable as to be almost surely unreal, and if not unreal then quite immeasurably catastrophic. Dorothy and I had spent a lovely summer evening walking over the Wolds, and on our way home sat in the sun for half an hour at a point looking across the plain of York. All the landscape of the nearer foreground was familiar—its sights, its sounds, its smells; hardly a field that did not call up some half-forgotten bit of association; the red-roofed village and nearby hamlets, gathered as it were for company round the old greystone church, where men and women like ourselves, now long dead and gone, had once knelt in worship and prayer. Here in Yorkshire was a true fragment of the undying England, like the White Cliffs of Dover, or any other part of our land that Englishmen have loved. Then the question came, is it possible that the Prussian jackboot will force its way into this countryside to tread and trample over it at will? The very thought seemed an insult and an outrage; much as if anyone were to be condemned to watch his mother, wife or daughter being raped."


In January 1941 Halifax was sent to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, on the death in office there of the then Ambassador, the Marquess of Lothian
Philip Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian
Philip Henry Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian KT CH PC was a British politician and diplomat.Philip Kerr was the son of Lord Ralph Drury Kerr, the third son of John Kerr, 7th Marquess of Lothian...

; the last of the appeasers to leave the Cabinet, Chamberlain, Hoare and Simon having already departed.
Halifax, a cautious and elusive public figure, was not an effective public diplomat, unlike his predecessor. Relations with President Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 were satisfactory, but Halifax was a low key figure. Churchill's close engagement with the United States, and personal investment in communication with the President ushered in a more constrained Ambassadorial role. Communications technology meant that Churchill could communicate directly with Roosevelt, and was a regular visitor to Washington. Relations also increasingly turned on military issues channelled through the Joint Chiefs of Staff secretariat in Washington.

Mourning the death of his middle son in action in 1942, Halifax wearied of Washington and asked Anthony Eden to have him replaced, but ultimately he stuck out the position until 1946, witnessing the transition to Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 and Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

. These years contained fraught moments and challenges for the relationship as American power eclipsed that of Britain and Britain's interests and rights were on occasion ignored, in particular the cessation of nuclear cooperation after construction of the atom bomb. This should not occlude the fact that the UK-US partnership in World War II was immensely successful, and as close as any other such partnership; for example those of World War I, and that this was a demanding Ambassadorial post by any standards. Halifax can reasonably claim to have played his part, and he enjoyed a notably longer term than his less successful successor, Archibald Clark Kerr, 1st Baron Inverchapel.

Halifax took part in a plethora of international conferences over the U.N. and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 though here again he believed that Churchill's view of the Soviet threat was exaggerated and urged him to be more conciliatory, perhaps indicating the reluctance to learn the lessons of the 1930s so obvious in his 1957 autobiography The Fulness of Days, described in the Dictionary of National Biography
Dictionary of National Biography
The Dictionary of National Biography is a standard work of reference on notable figures from British history, published from 1885...

as "gently evasive".

In retirement from 1946 he returned to largely honorary pursuits as Chancellor of the University of Sheffield
University of Sheffield
The University of Sheffield is a research university based in the city of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England. It is one of the original 'red brick' universities and is a member of the Russell Group of leading research intensive universities...

 and 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...

 and Chairman of the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

. He died at his estate at Garrowby
Garrowby
Garrowby is a hamlet in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It is situated approximately north of Pocklington town centre.It lies to the north of the A166 roadand forms part of the civil parish of Kirby Underdale....

 shortly before Christmas 1959, aged 78.

Legacy

To one of his supporters, Harold Begbie
Edward Harold Begbie
Edward Harold Begbie , also known as Harold Begbie, was an English author and journalist who published nearly 50 books and poems and contributed to periodicals. Besides studies of the Christian religion, he wrote numerous other books, including political satire, comedy, fiction, science fiction,...

, Halifax was "the highest kind of Englishman now in politics" whose "life and doctrine were in complete harmony with a very lofty moral principle, but who has no harsh judgement for men who err and go astray".

Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

 said Halifax possessed a "sweet and Christian nature". Rab Butler
Rab Butler
Richard Austen Butler, Baron Butler of Saffron Walden, KG CH DL PC , who invariably signed his name R. A. Butler and was familiarly known as Rab, was a British Conservative politician...

 called him "this strange and imposing figure—half unwordly saint, half cunning politician".

In 1968 the official records of Halifax's years as Foreign Secretary were released. (The "fifty-year rule" was replaced by the "thirty-year rule".) The Conservative historian Maurice Cowling
Maurice Cowling
Maurice John Cowling was a British historian and a Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge.-Life:Cowling was born in Norwood, South London, to a lower middle-class family. His family then moved to Streatham, where Cowling attended an LCC elementary school, and from 1937 the Battersea Grammar School...

 wrote in 1975: "To history, until yesterday, Halifax was the arch-appeaser. This, it is now recognised, was a mistake. His rôle, however, was complicated. In these pages he is not the man who stopped the rot, but the embodiment of Conservative wisdom who decided that Hitler must be obstructed because Labour could not otherwise be resisted".

Halifax College
Halifax College
Halifax College is the largest and newest college of the University of York. It was founded in 2001 and is named after Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, the 1st Earl of Halifax....

 at the University of York
University of York
The University of York , is an academic institution located in the city of York, England. Established in 1963, the campus university has expanded to more than thirty departments and centres, covering a wide range of subjects...

 is named after Lord Halifax. Lady Irwin College
Lady Irwin College
Lady Irwin College is a constituent college of the University of Delhi. Established in 1932, it is women's college and located in New Delhi, India, and offers graduate and post-graduate courses in Home Science.-History:...

, a women's college in Delhi was established under patronage of Lady Dorothy Irwin in 1931.

In popular culture

Lord Halifax features in the novel The Remains of the Day
The Remains of the Day
The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro's third published novel. One of the most highly-regarded post-war British novels, the work was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989...

by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro OBE or ; born 8 November 1954) is a Japanese–English novelist. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and his family moved to England in 1960. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor's degree from University of Kent in 1978 and his Master's from the University of East Anglia's creative writing...

 and also the 1993 film of the same name, in which he is portrayed by Peter Eyre
Peter Eyre
Peter Eyre is an American actor.Eyre was born in New York City, New York, the son of Dorothy Pelline and Edward Joseph Eyre, a banker. He was sent to a public school in England at the age of twelve, and has been based in the country ever since. Although offered a place at the Royal Academy of...

. Halifax also appears in the film Gandhi
Gandhi (film)
Gandhi is a 1982 biographical film based on the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who led the nonviolent resistance movement against British colonial rule in India during the first half of the 20th century. The film was directed by Richard Attenborough and stars Ben Kingsley as Gandhi. They both...

, wh is portrayed by Sir John Gielgud
John Gielgud
Sir Arthur John Gielgud, OM, CH was an English actor, director, and producer. A descendant of the renowned Terry acting family, he achieved early international acclaim for his youthful, emotionally expressive Hamlet which broke box office records on Broadway in 1937...

. Halifax makes an appearance as Lord Irwin in the film The Legend of Bhagat Singh
The Legend of Bhagat Singh
The Legend of Bhagat Singh is a 2002 Hindi historic biographical film about Bhagat Singh, a freedom fighter who fought for Indian independence. It was directed by Rajkumar Santoshi and starred Ajay Devgan, Sushant Singh, and Ian Davies...

, played by the Israeli actor Gil Alon. Halifax is also a significant character in Michael Dobbs
Michael Dobbs
Michael Dobbs, Baron Dobbs is a British Conservative politician and best-selling author.-Background:Michael Dobbs was born on 14 November 1948 in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, the son of nurseryman Eric and Eileen Dobbs. He was educated at Hertford Grammar School and Christ Church, Oxford University....

' novels Winston's War
Winston's War
Winston's War is a 2003 novel by Michael Dobbs that presents a fictional account of the struggle of Winston Churchill to combat the appeasement policies of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.-Plot summary:...

and Never Surrender. He is also portrayed by British actor Richard Durdon in the BBC docudrama miniseries Dunkirk (2004). His cabinet struggle with Churchill is the subject of the 2011 play Three Days in May by Ben Brown.

Further reading

  • Alan Campbell-Johnson and R. Hale. Viscount Halifax: A Biography. 1941
  • Earl of Birkenhead. Earl of Halifax: The Life of Lord Halifax. Hamilton, 1965.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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