Biography of Herbert Henry Asquith (1852-1928)

British politician born in Morley (Yorkshire County) on September 12, 1852 and died in Sutton Courtenay (Berkshire County) 15 February 1928.

Biographical synthesis

Member of the Liberal Party, as well as Minister of the Interior William Gladstone and Archibald Primorse Rosebery (1892-1895), and Minister of finance, Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1905-1908), was Prime Minister between 1908 and 1916, since which applied various social measures, limited the powers of the House of Lords in 1911 and was confronted with the onset of the first world war.

Formation and first political action

Second son of Joseph Dixon Asquith, came from a middle class family of Yorkshire, which was dedicated to the manufacture of cloths. He/She was educated at the City of London School (1863-1870) and the Balliol College, Oxford (since 1870), where he/she studied law; He/She graduated in 1874 with excellent qualifications. Moving to London, he/she admitted as a solicitor in Lincoln's Inn, and since 1876 worked as a lawyer at a law firm of tempering, in Fig Tree Court. A year later he/she also worked as a publicist for The Economist magazine. In 1886, at the age of 33, he/she was elected to Parliament for East Fife as a member of the Liberal Party. It became known to the political world as Assistant to Charles Russell during the process of investigation of the Irish leader Charles Parnell. After a few years in the opposition of the House of Commons, he/she was appointed Home Secretary ('Interior Minister') between 1892 and 1895, during the last Government of William Gladstone and Archibald Primrose, Earl of Rosebery.

Returned to the opposition and to the practice of law after the victory of the conservative Robert Salisbury, rejected the leadership of his party in favor of Henry Campbell-Bannerman for personal reasons. Not always in agreement, formed with other Liberals such as Richard Burdon Haldane and Edward Grey the Liberal League, called also "imperialist Liberals", who supported intervention against the boers between 1899 and 1902 and also a more aggressive foreign policy. But Asquith took an important part in the appointment of Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister, thanks to the promotion that made free trade. He/She obtained the important post of Chancellor of the Exchequer ('Finance Minister') in the new Government. Opposed as such women's vote, which earned the animosity of groups suffragists, especially the National Union of Women completo Suffrage Societies ('National Union of societies for the suffrage of women', NUWSS) and of the Woman's Social and Political Union (' political and Social Union of the woman', WSPU), who accused him of making pay taxes women but unrecognized political representativeness.

Asquith, British Prime Minister

Campbell-Bannerman having resigned for health reasons, on April 5, 1908 King Eduardo VII informed Asquith to his election as Prime Minister (position occupied for the first time by a member of the class average professional); He/She was also appointed head of the Liberal Party, which if accepted on this occasion. David Lloyd George was named Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Winston Churchill (then in the Liberal Party) as Trade Minister. The same year of his election issued the Old Age Pensions Act ('pensions Act'), but in 1909 the refusal of the House of Lords (of broad conservative majority) to approve their social budgets led to a parliamentary crisis. In the January and December 1910 General elections he/she maintained the Ministry, but his party only won a majority of just two seats on the conservative party. However, Asquith could govern effectively and continued its policy of social welfare in approving the National Insurance Act ('national insurance law') in 1911, which was to protect the unemployed and sick; that same year he/she passed People completo Budget ('popular budget') finally rejected in 1909. Then, capitalizing on the unpopularity of the upper House for his opposition to these laws and with the support of the King Jorge V, through the Parliament Act ('Act of Parliament') abolished the right of veto of the Lords on financial legislation and limited him on other issues.

However, he/she returned to reject the female vote, while some members of the Government were favorable and he/she had promised in the election campaign of 1910; for this reason, the WSPU organised against it at the end of 1911 an active agitation that came to attack your home. In addition to the tense international situation, other internal problems hindered his Government during these years, as allegations of corruption towards members of his Cabinet and the dissolution of the Anglican Church in Wales. In order to solve another big problem of British politics, in April 1912 he/she presented the third Irish Home Rule Bill, giving greater autonomy to Ireland; the protests of the Protestants of Ulster put Ireland on the brink of civil war and delayed the implementation of the law until September 1914, which was suspended shortly after by the onset of the first World War (not would be restored until the end of hostilities).

France supporter, Asquith did not take the decision to intervene in the conflict until Germany invaded neutral Belgium, which outraged the British public. However, its too soft liberal policy was not able to adapt adequately to the war, while from the beginning of his mandate he/she had started a costly programme to strengthen the British Navy which contrarrestase the German naval power. After a crisis of Government in May 1915 (caused by the resignation of the first Lord of the Admiralty, John Arbuthnot Fisher, by the failure of the expedition to the Dardanelles) formed a coalition Government with the conservative party, with Lloyd George as Minister of war. At the end of the year he/she replaced with Douglas Haig John French as Commander of British forces in France, and appointed William Robertson as Chief of the General staff. Until 1916 it refused to enact compulsory recruitment, trusting the enlistment of volunteers until then.

An Irish uprising in Dublin (Easter uprising) broke out in April this year, and between July and November the following year came the disastrous campaign of the Somme, which killed up to half a million British soldiers (including a son of Asquith, Raymond). The country and also members of their own party blamed Asquith of the situation. In December 1916 the own Lloyd George demanded the formation of a Cabinet of war and allied himself with the conservative Andrew Bonar Law to Asquith of the Presidency of the same. After enduring a harsh and hostile press campaign (promoted by Alfred Harmsworth, Viscount Northcliffe, owner of The Times and the Daily Mail), resigned December 5.

Succeeded at the head of a new coalition Government by Lloyd George, the Liberal Party split in two, losing therefore considerable importance in the interwar period. Asquith chaired the fraction away from the new Prime Minister, but lost his seat in 1918 the nominal Chief William Wedgwood Benn had it. After the fall of its rival in 1922, most of the Liberal parliamentarians 116 were related to Asquith, so again led formally the Party (until 1926). In 1923 he/she returned to the House of Commons to be elected for Paisley; the following year he/she collaborated in the formation of the first Labour Government of James Ramsay MacDonald. In 1925 it was titled Earl of Oxford and Asquith by King Jorge V and admitted to the order of the Garter, entering the House of Lords.

Relatively lacking in media, during the last years of life wrote The Genesis of the War ('the genesis of the war', 1923); Fifty Years of Parliament ('fifty years of Parliament', 1925) and Memories and Reflections ('Memories and reflections', 1928). He/She died in 1928, at the age of seventy-five. In 1877 he/she had contracted marriage with Helen Melland, who died in 1891 after having had with her four sons and a daughter; in 1894 he/she married second wife Margot Tennant, woman very known in London society, who survived him. Intelligent man and good administrator, was however slow decision-making and not always able to coordinate the other members of his Government. Neither had the charisma of Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. Even so, since the tenure of Robert Jenkinson, Earl of Liverpool (1812 to 1827), and up to the Margaret Thatcher (between 1979 and 1990), was the British Prime Minister who ruled over years, eight.


CASSAR, G.H. Asquith as War Leader. (London, Hambledon Press: 1994).

ENGLEFIELD, D.T. Facts about the British prime ministers: a compilation of biographical and historical information. (New York, H.W. Wilson: 1995).

HAZELHURST, C. "Asquith as Prime Minister, 1908 - 1916", in English Historical Review, 85 (1970) 502-531.

JENKINS, R. Asquith. (Collins, London: 1978).

KOSS, S. Asquith. (New York, St Martin's Press: 1976).

SEARLE, G.R. The liberal party: triumph and d├ęsint├ęgration, 1886-1929. (New York, St Martin's Press: 2000).

SPENDER, J.A. and ASQUITH, C. Life of Herbert Henry Asquith, Lord Oxford and Asquith. 2 vols. (London, Hutchinson: 1932).

WILSON, T. The Downfall of the Liberal Party, 1914-1935. (Ithaca, Cornell University Press: 1966).

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