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I cheeked and thwarted such ministers of Providence as squires and parsons, developed into a pert young solicitor, quick at outwitting the heavy fathers of the local bench, and ready to campaign ungenerously against those very Church-of-England schools which had first taught him


To speak evil of dignities is, however, as a rule, the first rung of a Radical's ladder of perfection. Those were the days when Joseph Chamberlain was comparing the noble lords, who in due time were to become his best allies, to the lazy lilies of the field, which neither toiled nor spun; and the young solicitor's heart went out to the fine talk of the Birmingham manufacturer. • Great Liberal victories in the counties. . .,' so we read in Mr George's private diary of the year 1885, 'very glad of it. Am convinced that this is all due to Chamberlain's


speeches. Gladstone had no programme.' Three years later the Liberals of Carnarvon Boroughs, encouraged by a certain amount of fairly irresponsible talk against landlords and clergymen, selected the young man of twenty-five as their candidate; and in 1890 he got into Parliament. His election address had contained a very particular denunciation of 'Mr Balfour's baton-andbayonet rule in Ireland'; and Time, more revengeful by a great deal than Mr Balfour-'fiendish spirit of aristocracy incarnate' though Mr George declared him to be -took a note of it and lay in wait for an opportunity to bring it back to mind.

The new member for Carnarvon Boroughs made a first appearance in debate in June 1890 with a sensible and successful speech in reference to the claims of technical education. Two months later he found occasion to make some bitter remarks about certain items of decorative expenditure; for he was not as yet acquainted with the pleasures of extravagance. His eloquence won him the notice of old parliamentary hands. Gladstone and Harcourt and Mr Morley were quick to see that he had the making of a smart recruit. He was righteous with the peculiar righteousness of the Radical; and he pleaded for virtue with a venom not unallied to vice. So great a political ascetic had not

* Du Parcq, 'Life of David Lloyd George,' I, p. 49.


lately taken the platform! The repression of the publichouses, the taxation of the ground-landlord, and the emancipation of his native country from the predomi nant partnership of England presently engaged his attention; but it was the outbreak of the South African War that gave full scope to his energies.

Mr George enjoyed at that time all the perceptions of the pacificist. In the grievances of the Uitlanders he found no sufficient cause of battle; he denounced the wild waste of war; and he deprecated its disastrous reaction upon social reform. As the struggle proceeded, he drew a distinction between the original object of securing equal rights for the whole white population of the Transvaal and the final project of annexation. A war for territory, he said, had supplanted a war for principles; and he said this and other such things with courage and invective. His fate was the fate of those who, in wisdom or folly, cry for peace when the pulses of their compatriots are beating in unison with the drums of war. He was mobbed and bludgeoned, and at Birmingham he had to be slipped into a policeman's uniform to save him from a harsher fate. In that great city Chamberlain, in those days, reigned like a petty prince; and it was treason to remember that time was-and not so long a time either-when that distinguished man had declared that to go to war with President Kruger in order to force upon him reforms in the internal affairs of his state, in which Secretaries of State had repudiated all right of interference would be a course of action as immoral as unwise.'*

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Upon such inconsistencies Mr George was at that time apt to be very severe; and he was also very unfavourably impressed by the connexion of the Chamberlain family with Kynochs, a cordite firm to which the war had brought large profits. Accordingly, he took occasion to advocate the most rigid ministerial purity in the matter of public contracts, and in a high moral vein he moved an amendment to the Address requiring Ministers to have no interest direct or indirect in any firm or company competing for contracts with the Crown. The amendment was lost; but there were some

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who recalled it when, in 1913, Mr George was himself found to have been mildly speculating in the shares of the American Marconi Company, whose parent-concern— the British Marconi Company-was at that time entering upon important contracts with the British Government. 'I certainly ought not to have done it,'* was the Chancellor of the Exchequer's candid confession when the matter was, after some delay, brought to light; to which the accusing envoi seems to be that, if it is imprudent to throw stones when one lives in a glass house, it is still more incautious to throw the stones first and get into the glass house afterwards. But to return!

For all his bold defiance of the public mood, the member for Carnarvon Boroughs kept his seat at the election of 1900 and greatly increased his majority in the hey-day of Liberal opinion some six years later. His tongue transmitted, without a stammer, the high moralities of each favourable occasion. All unsuspicious of the day when he would himself initiate a Khaki Election and authorise the use of Chinese coolies in France, he commented with indignation upon the electioneering tactics of the Colonial Secretary who had appealed for 'the judgment of the people in the very height and excitement of the fever,' and dwelt with displeasure upon the enlistment of Chinese labourers to man the South African mines. But the stand which he made against the rating of Welsh Nonconformists for the maintenance of English Church schools stirred the hearts of his countrymen more nearly. In Wales, indeed, his influence advanced by leaps and bounds; and he became another Chamberlain with another, and a greater Birmingham at his back. It was of no particular moment that the projected organised resistance of the Welsh County Councils to the Education Act of 1902 concluded rather tamely, and that in the end a Liberal Government, of which he had become a member, was to be found applying the Education Local Authority Default Act of 1904 to the conscience-burdened authorities of Wales. For he had spoken of conscience as men especially love to have it spoken of when they are spoiling for a fighthad called it God's greatest gift to the human mind,'

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* Mr. George in the House of Commons, June 18, 1913.

'the propeller and rudder of human progress and had emerged from the battle that did not come off as much a hero as if he had carried the day.

To so powerful a supporter Campbell-Bannerman offered the Presidency of the Board of Trade; a post not reckoned among the greater political prizes, but one that can be turned to good account by men with good abilities. And Mr Lloyd George was as sharp and supple as a solicitor in a novel. In him Mr Tulkinghorn or Mr Jermyn would have met their match; and his particular class of talent was nowhere more happily located than in a department where business needed to be handled in a popular manner and differences to be reconciled and arranged by pleasing arts and ingenious adjustments. The country owes him much for the consolidation of custom into statute effected by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906; for the equally uncontested merit of the Patents Act of 1907; for the dexterous settlement of the threatened railway-strike of that same year; and something also for the Insurance Act which he introduced at a later date. At the close of his two years at the Board of Trade his reputation as an administrator stood high and, upon Campbell-Bannerman's death and after Mr Morley had refused to change offices, his claim to the second post in the Government became irresistible. He was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, in May 1908, at the age of forty-five. There was not, perhaps, a man living in the United Kingdom who had climbed quite so high in so short a time; nor in his case had there been any suspicion of adventitious aid of any kind. So that, for those who think great place to be in itself the evidence of the greater political qualities, the proof of his statesmanship was thus early established.

· That opinion did not, however, at that time commend itself to many cultivated and intelligent men. Chancellors of the Exchequer, with the exception of Lord Randolph Churchill, had for some while past been chosen from among reverent and responsible persons. Gladstone and Goschen, Northcote and Cornewall Lewis, Harcourt and Hicks-Beach-such were the kind of men whom the country had been accustomed to see entrusted with the management of the public purse. Mr George introduced


a more frolicking temper into this solemn function. In all his oratory there was no phrase that so stamped itself upon the public fancy as his confession, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he had no nest-eggs and was looking about for a hen-roost to rob. It was no more than an ill-timed witticism; and yet, because out of the fullness of the heart the mouth is apt to speak, it may be that the public instinct was not at fault, and that in this phrase the man stood revealed even as another man was held to have revealed himself in the playful injunction to 'wait and see.' And Robin Hood, taking toll of fat abbots as they made their way through Sherwood Forest, would, no doubt, have recognised a kindred spirit in one whose proceedings were apt to recall to some over-imaginative minds the exploits of an even Igreater figure in the sagas of the nursery-the Welshman Taffy. The Little Man, for so it seemed natural to call him, entered the fray with a good heart. He knew how to give good entertainment on the platform and to enlist the sympathies of the crowd; and his speeches at Limehouse, and later at Newcastle, are still remembered as brilliant examples of mob oratory. One or two of the Dukes, who were the principal targets of his invective, grew angry; but the fun only waxed the faster and the more furious. The Public got hold of the idea that English landlords in general, and English Dukes in particular, had become as fat fellows as the pre-Reformation abbots of popular history; and Little David was well-liked for the same reasons as Little John. In vain Lord Rosebery declared that the end of all' was in view; in vain peers and financiers put up their eloquent protests both within Parliament and without. The land-taxes had become a demand almost as formidable as a Reform Bill in the 'thirties; and on being appealed to, the country returned an imposing majority in their support. Accordingly they took their place on the statute-book. Ten years later, Mr. George being then at the head of the Government, they were swept away again as useless lumber. By that time English landlords had learned to endure a scale of taxation beside which the dreaded land-taxes were but a flea-bite; and Mr George had found out that all that glitters is not gold. So slow, so sure are the processes of political education!

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