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Joseph Chamberlain

Birthdate: 8. July 1836
Date of death: 2. July 1914

Joseph Chamberlain was a British statesman who was first a radical Liberal, then, after opposing home rule for Ireland, a Liberal Unionist, and eventually served as a leading imperialist in coalition with the Conservatives. He split both major British parties in the course of his career.

Chamberlain made his career in Birmingham, first as a manufacturer of screws and then as a notable mayor of the city. He was a radical Liberal Party member and an opponent of the Elementary Education Act 1870 on the basis that it could result in subsidising Church of England schools with local ratepayers' money. As a self-made businessman, he had never attended university and had contempt for the aristocracy. He entered the House of Commons at 39 years of age, relatively late in life compared to politicians from more privileged backgrounds. Rising to power through his influence with the Liberal grassroots organisation, he served as President of the Board of Trade in Gladstone's Second Government . At the time, Chamberlain was notable for his attacks on the Conservative leader Lord Salisbury, and in the 1885 general election he proposed the "Unauthorised Programme", which was not enacted, of benefits for newly enfranchised agricultural labourers, including the slogan promising "three acres and a cow". Chamberlain resigned from Gladstone's Third Government in 1886 in opposition to Irish Home Rule. He helped to engineer a Liberal Party split and became a Liberal Unionist, a party which included a bloc of MPs based in and around Birmingham.

From the 1895 general election the Liberal Unionists were in coalition with the Conservative Party, under Chamberlain's former opponent Lord Salisbury. In that government Chamberlain promoted the Workmen's Compensation Act 1897. He served as Secretary of State for the Colonies, promoting a variety of schemes to build up the Empire in Asia, Africa, and the West Indies. He had major responsibility for causing the Second Boer War in South Africa and was the government minister most responsible for the war effort. He became a dominant figure in the Unionist Government's re-election at the "Khaki Election" in 1900. In 1903, he resigned from the Cabinet to campaign for tariff reform . He obtained the support of most Unionist MPs for this stance, but the Unionists suffered a landslide defeat at the 1906 general election. Shortly after public celebrations of his 70th birthday in Birmingham, he was disabled by a stroke, ending his public career.

Despite never becoming Prime Minister, he was one of the most important British politicians of his day, as well as a renowned orator and municipal reformer. Historian David Nicholls notes that his personality was not attractive: he was arrogant and ruthless and much hated. He never succeeded in his grand ambitions. However, he was a highly proficient grassroots organizer of democratic instincts, and played the central role in winning the Second Boer War. He is most famous for setting the agenda of British colonial, foreign, tariff and municipal policies, and for deeply splitting both major political parties.

„Sugar has gone, silk has gone, iron is threatened, wool is threatened, cotton will go! How long are you going to stand it? At the present moment these industries, and the working men who depend upon them, are like sheep in a field.“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

Speech in Greenock (7 October 1903), quoted in Julian Amery, Joseph Chamberlain and the Tariff Reform Campaign (London: Macmillan, 1969), p. 471.
1900s
Context: Free imports have destroyed this industry, at all events for the time, and it is not easy to recover an industry when it has once been lost... They have destroyed agriculture... Agriculture as the greatest of all trades and industries of this country has been practically destroyed. Sugar has gone, silk has gone, iron is threatened, wool is threatened, cotton will go! How long are you going to stand it? At the present moment these industries, and the working men who depend upon them, are like sheep in a field. One by one they allow themselves to be led out to slaughter, and there is no combination, no apparent prevision of what is in store for the rest of them. Do you think, if you belong at present to a prosperous industry, that your industry will be allowed to continue? Do you think that the same causes which have destroyed some of our industries, and which are in the course of destroying others, will not be equally applicable to you when your turn comes?

„We have to consolidate the British race“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

Speech in Glasgow (6 October 1903), quoted in The Times (7 October 1903), p. 4.
1900s
Context: What are our objects? They are two. In the first place, we all desire the maintenance and increase of the national strength and the prosperity of the United Kingdom... in the second place, our object is, or should be, the realization of the greatest ideal which has ever come to statesmen in any country or in any age— the creation of an Empire such as the world has never seen. (Cheers.) We have to cement the union of the States beyond the Seas. We have to consolidate the British race. We have to meet the clash of competition, commercial now. Sometimes in the past it has been otherwise; it may be again in the future. Whatever it be, whatever danger threatens, we have to meet it no longer as an isolated country. We have to meet it as fortified and strengthened and buttressed by all those of our kinsmen, all those powerful and continually rising States which speak our common tongue and pay allegiance to our common flag.

„We must either draw closer together or we shall drift apart“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

Speech in Glasgow (6 October 1903), quoted in The Times (7 October 1903), p. 4.
1900s
Context: The Colonies are prepared to meet us. In return for a very moderate preference they will give us a substantial advantage. They will give us, in the first place— I believe they will reserve to us the trade which we already enjoy. They will arrange for tariffs in the future in order not to start industries in competition with those which are already in existence in the mother country... But they will do a great deal more for you. This is certain. Not only will they enable you to retain the trade which you have, but they are ready to give you preference to all the trade which is now done with them by foreign competitors... We must either draw closer together or we shall drift apart... It is, I believe, absolutely impossible for you to maintain in the long run your present loose and indefinable relations and preserve these Colonies parts of the Empire... Can we invent a tie which must be a practical one, which will prevent separation... I say that it is only by commercial union, reciprocal preference, that you can lay the foundations of the confederation of the Empire to which we all look forward as a brilliant possibility.

„The weary Titan staggers under the too vast orb of its fate.“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

Speech to the Colonial Conference, quoted in 'Mr. Chamberlain's Opening Speech', The Times (4 November 1902), p. 5.
1900s
Context: ... the expression was, "If you want our aid, call us to your Councils." Gentlemen, we do want your aid. We do require your assistance in the administration of the vast Empire which is yours as well as ours. The weary Titan staggers under the too vast orb of its fate. We have borne the burden for many years. We think it is time that our children should assist us, be very sure that we shall hasten gladly to call you to our Councils. If you are prepared at any time to take any share, any proportionate share, in the burdens of the Empire, we are prepared to meet you with any proposal for giving to you a corresponding voice in the policy of the Empire.

„Is Britain to be numbered among the decaying States? Has all the glory of the past to be forgotten? Have we to prove ourselves unregenerate sons of the forefathers who left us so glorious an inheritance? Are we to be a decaying State? Are the efforts of all our sons to be frittered away? Are their sacrifices to be vain? Or are we to take up a new youth as members of a great Empire which will continue for generation after generation, the strength, the power, and the glory of the British race?“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

Speech in Greenock (7 October 1903), quoted in The Times (8 October 1903), p. 8.
1900s
Context: When I was in South Africa nothing was more inspiring, nothing more encouraging, to a Briton to find how the men who had either themselves come from its shore or were the descendants of those who had still retained the old traditions, still remembered that their forefathers were buried in its churchyards, that they spoke a common language, that they were under a common flag, still in their hearts desired to be remembered above all as British subjects, equally entitled with us to a part in the great Empire which they, as well as us, have contributed to make... I did not hesitate, however, to preach to them that it was not enough to shout for Empire... but that they and we alike must be content to make a common sacrifice... in order to secure the common good. To my appeal they rose. And I cannot believe that here in this country, in the mother country, their enthusiasm will not find an echo. They felt, as I felt, and as you feel, that all history is the history of States once powerful and now decaying. Is Britain to be numbered among the decaying States? Has all the glory of the past to be forgotten? Have we to prove ourselves unregenerate sons of the forefathers who left us so glorious an inheritance? Are we to be a decaying State? Are the efforts of all our sons to be frittered away? Are their sacrifices to be vain? Or are we to take up a new youth as members of a great Empire which will continue for generation after generation, the strength, the power, and the glory of the British race?

„You can not have omelettes without breaking eggs“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

The True Conception of Empire http://www.bartleby.com/268/5/14.html (31 March 1897). Speech given to the Royal Colonial Institute.
The phrase "omlets are not made without breaking eggs" first appeared in English in 1796. It is from the French, "on ne saurait faire d'omelette sans casser des œufs" (1742 and earlier), attributed to François de Charette.
1890s
Context: You can not have omelettes without breaking eggs; you can not destroy the practises of barbarism, of slavery, of superstition, which for centuries have desolated the interior of Africa, without the use of force; but if you will fairly contrast the gain to humanity with the price which we are bound to pay for it, I think you may well rejoice in the result of such expeditions as those which have recently been conducted with such signal success in Nyassaland, Ashanti, Benin, and Nupé—expeditions which may have, and indeed have, cost valuable lives, but as to which we may rest assured that for one life lost a hundred will be gained, and the cause of civilization and the prosperity of the people will in the long run be eminently advanced.

„What about the working men? What about the class that depends upon having work in order to earn wages or subsistence at all? They cannot do without the work; and yet the work will go if it is not produced in this country. This is the state of things which I am protesting.“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

Speech in Greenock (7 October 1903), quoted in The Times (8 October 1903), p. 8.
1900s
Context: Now the Cobden Club all this time rubs its hands in the most patriotic spirit and says, "Ah, yes; but how cheap you are buying." Yes, but think how that effects different classes in the community. Take the capitalist... His interest is to buy in the cheapest market, because he does not produce, but can get every article he consumes. He need not buy a single article in this country; he need not make a single article. He can invest his money in foreign countries and live upon the interest, and then in the returns of the prosperity of the country it will be said that the country is growing richer because he is growing richer. What about the working men? What about the class that depends upon having work in order to earn wages or subsistence at all? They cannot do without the work; and yet the work will go if it is not produced in this country. This is the state of things which I am protesting.

„Our Imperial trade is absolutely essential to our prosperity at the present time.“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

If that trade declines, or if it does not increase in proportion to our population and to the loss of trade with foreign countries, then we sink at once into a fifth-rate nation. Our fate will be the fate of the empires and kingdoms of the past. We have reached our highest point...I do not believe in the setting of the British star; but then I do not believe in the folly of the British people. I trust them, I trust the working classes of this country. I have confidence that they who are our masters, electorally speaking, that they will have intelligence to see that they must wake up. They must modify their policy to suit new conditions.
Speech in Glasgow (6 October 1903), quoted in The Times (7 October 1903), p. 4.
1900s

„I believe that the British race is the greatest of the governing races that the world has ever seen“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

Speech given to the Imperial Institute (11 November 1895), quoted in "Mr. Chamberlain On The Australian Colonies", The Times (12 November, 1895), p. 6.
1890s
Context: I venture to claim two qualifications for the great office which I hold, which to my mind, without making invidious distinctions, is one of the most important that can be held by any Englishman; and those qualifications are that in the first place I believe in the British Empire, and in the second place I believe in the British race. I believe that the British race is the greatest of the governing races that the world has ever seen.

„I say that it is only by commercial union, reciprocal preference, that you can lay the foundations of the confederation of the Empire to which we all look forward as a brilliant possibility.“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

1900s
Context: The Colonies are prepared to meet us. In return for a very moderate preference they will give us a substantial advantage. They will give us, in the first place— I believe they will reserve to us the trade which we already enjoy. They will arrange for tariffs in the future in order not to start industries in competition with those which are already in existence in the mother country... But they will do a great deal more for you. This is certain. Not only will they enable you to retain the trade which you have, but they are ready to give you preference to all the trade which is now done with them by foreign competitors... We must either draw closer together or we shall drift apart... It is, I believe, absolutely impossible for you to maintain in the long run your present loose and indefinable relations and preserve these Colonies parts of the Empire... Can we invent a tie which must be a practical one, which will prevent separation... I say that it is only by commercial union, reciprocal preference, that you can lay the foundations of the confederation of the Empire to which we all look forward as a brilliant possibility.

Speech in Glasgow (6 October 1903), quoted in The Times (7 October 1903), p. 4.

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„Our existence as a nation depends upon our manufacturing capacity and production“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

1900s
Context: When Mr. Cobden preached his doctrine he believed, as he had at that time considerable reason to suppose, that while foreign countries would supply us with our foods and raw materials we should remain the workshop of the world and should send them in exchange our manufactures. But that is exactly what we have not done. On the contrary... we are sending less and less of our manufactures to them, and they are sending more and more of their manufactures to us... Our existence as a nation depends upon our manufacturing capacity and production.

Speech in Glasgow (6 October 1903), quoted in The Times (7 October 1903), p. 4.

„Lord Goschen tells you that France only takes 2 per cent. of its corn from abroad, that it is self-sufficient, and that Germany only takes 30 per cent., whereas, he says, we take four-fifths. That is not a comforting reflection…it is not a comforting reflection to think that we, a part of the British Empire that might be self-sufficient and self-contained, are, nevertheless, dependent, according to Lord Goschen, for four-fifths of our supplies upon foreign countries, any one of which, by shutting their doors upon us, might reduce us to a state of almost absolute starvation. … the working man has to fear the result of a shortage of supplies and of a consequent monopoly. If in time of war one of the great countries, Russia, Germany, France, or the United States of America, were to cut off its supply, it would infallibly raise the price according to the quantity which we received from that country. If there were no war, if in times of peace these countries wanted their corn for themselves, which they will do, or if there were bad harvests, which there may be in either of these cases, you will find the price of corn rising many times higher than any tax I have ever suggested. And there is only one remedy for it. There is only one remedy for a short supply. It is to increase your sources of supply. You must call in the new world, the Colonies, to redress the balance of the old. Call in the Colonies, and they will answer to your call with very little stimulus or encouragement. They will give you a supply which will be never failing and all sufficient.“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

Speech in Newcastle (20 October 1903), quoted in The Times (21 October 1903), p. 10.
1900s

„You are suffering from the unrestricted imports of cheaper goods. You are suffering also from the unrestricted immigration of the people who make these goods. (Loud and prolonged cheers.)…The evils of immigration have increased during recent years. And behind those people who have already reached these shores, remember there are millions of the same kind who, under easily conceivable circumstances, might follow in their track, and might invade this country in a way and to an extent of which few people have at present any conception. The same causes that brought 10,000 and 20,000, and tens of thousands, may bring hundreds of thousands, or even millions. (Hear, hear.) If that would be an evil, surely he is a statesman who would deal with it in the beginning. (Hear, hear.)…When it began we were told it was so small that it would not matter to us. Now it has been growing with great rapidity, it has already affected a whole district, it is spreading into other parts of the country…Will you take it in time (hear, hear), or will you wait, hoping for something to turn up which will preserve you from what you all see to be the natural consequences of such an invasion? …it is a fact that when these aliens come here they are answerable for a larger amount of crime and disease and hopeless poverty than are proportionate to their numbers. (Cheers.) They come here—I do not blame them, I am speaking of the results—they come here and change the whole character of a district. (Cheers.) The speech, the nationality of whole streets has been altered; and British workmen have been driven by the fierce competition of famished men from trades which they previously followed. (Cheers.)…But the party of free importers is against any reform. How could they be otherwise?…they are perfectly consistent. If sweated goods are to be allowed in this country without restriction, why not the people who make them? Where is the difference? There is no difference either in the principle or in the results. It all comes to the same thing—less labour for the British working man.“

—  Joseph Chamberlain

Cheers.
Speech in Limehouse in the East End of London (15 December 1904), quoted in ‘Mr. Chamberlain In The East-End.’, The Times (16 December 1904), p. 8.
1900s

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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