The Departure of Elgin from the Colonial Office April 1908

  • Ronald Hyam


Asquith did not want Elgin in his ministry. The departure of Elgin from the colonial office was an unpleasant episode in Edwardian politics, which were much less subject to ruthless cabinet purges than those of the new Elizabethan era. Gladstone’s principle was not yet forgotten: one of the most serious decisions a prime minister could take was to leave out a man once in the cabinet.


Prime Minister Cabinet Minister Small Landholder Volume Life South African Department 
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  1. 4.
    Ibid. 27 Aug 07; E to Selbe 30 Aug 07: ‘I have at last escaped from London! It has been a long and trying session in many ways. The one relief has been that it has been exceptionally cool for London at this time of the year’ (EP). Elgin’s difficulty about parliamentary speaking seems to have been inherited: his father had not been accounted much use in debate or cabinet by his contemporaries (E. Fitzmaurice, Life ofend Earl Granville (1905), i, 345, 36g).Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    As J. E. B. Seely does in Adventure (1930), p. 128.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    R. B. McCallum, Asquith (1936), passim.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    M. V. Brett (ed.), Journals and letters of Reginald, Viscount Esher, ii, 1903–1910 (1934), 308, 366. L. S. Amery’s judgment of Asquith is harsh, but not wholly wide of the mark: he had ‘a speciously transparent lucidity of expression, of saying nothing whatever in the course of half an hour, and yet leaving an impression of business-like conciseness.’ Asquith’s letters delight the eye more than the mind. Arrogance was one of his failings. ‘More flexibility and humility’, Churchill wisely observed, were necessary in modern prime ministers. (L. S. Amery, My Political Life, ii (1953), 79;Google Scholar
  5. WSC, Great Contemporaries (1937), p. 137).Google Scholar
  6. 2.
    H. Jenkins, Asquith (1964), p. 181, n., reveals that Asquith also dropped Lord Portsmouth as under-secretary of state for war, although he had once tutored Portsmouth.Google Scholar
  7. 3.
    A. Chamberlain, Politics from inside (1936), p. 78: ‘Asquith seems to have been on this occasion, as so often, quite needlessly brutal.’ 4 See A. M. Gollin, Proconsul inpolitics, p. 221, Dicey to Milner. See also,Google Scholar
  8. A. M. Gollin, ‘Asquith: a new view’ (A century of Conflict 1850–1950. Essays for A. J. P. Taylor, ed. M. Gilbert (1966), pp. 107–13).Google Scholar
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    Haldane, Autobiography (1929), p. 216.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ronald Hyam 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald Hyam
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CambridgeUK

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