1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lloyd George, David
LLOYD GEORGE, DAVID (1863–), British statesman, was born at Manchester on the 17th of January 1863. His father, William George, a Welshman of yeoman stock, had left Pembrokeshire for London at an early age and became a school teacher there, and afterwards in Liverpool and Haverfordwest, and then headmaster of an elementary school at Pwllheli, Carnarvonshire, where he married the daughter of David Lloyd, a neighbouring Baptist minister. Soon afterwards William George became headmaster of an elementary school in Manchester, but after the birth of his eldest son David his health failed, and he gave up his post and took a small farm near Haverfordwest. Two years later he died, leaving his widow in poor circumstances; a second child, another son, was posthumously born. Mrs George’s brother, Richard Lloyd, a shoemaker at Llanystumdwy, and pastor of the Campbellite Baptists there, now became her chief support; it was from him that young David obtained his earliest views of practical and political life, and also the means of starting, at the age of fourteen, on the career of a solicitor.
Having passed his law preliminary, he was articled to a firm in Portmadoc, and in 1884 obtained his final qualifications. In 1888 he married Margaret, daughter of Richard Owen of Criccieth. From the first he managed to combine his solicitor’s work with politics, becoming secretary of the South Carnarvonshire Anti-tithe League; and his local reputation was made by a successful fight, carried to the High Court, in defence of the right of Nonconformists to burial in the parish churchyard. In the first county council elections for Carnarvonshire he played a strenuous part on the Radical side, and was chosen an alderman; and in 1890, at a by-election for Carnarvon Boroughs, he was returned to parliament by a majority of 18 over a strong Conservative opponent. He held his seat successfully at the contests in 1892, 1895 and 1900, his reputation as a champion of Welsh nationalism, Welsh nonconformity and extreme Radicalism becoming thoroughly established both in parliament and in the country. In the House of Commons he was one of the most prominent guerrilla fighters, conspicuous for his audacity and pungency of utterance, and his capacity for obstruction while the Conservatives were in office. During the South African crisis of 1899–1902 he was specially vehement in opposition to Mr Chamberlain, and took the “pro-Boer” side so bitterly that he was mobbed in Birmingham during the 1900 election when he attempted to address a meeting at the Town Hall. But he was again returned for Carnarvon Boroughs; and in the ensuing parliament he came still more to the front by his resistance to the Education Act of 1902.
As the leader of the Welsh party, and one of the most dashing parliamentarians on the Radical side, his appointment to office when Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman became premier at the end of 1905 was generally expected; but his elevation direct to the cabinet as president of the Board of Trade was somewhat of a surprise. The responsibilities of administration have, however, often converted a political free-lance into a steady-going official, and the Unionist press did its best to encourage such a tendency by continual praise of the departmental action of the new minister. His settlement of the railway dispute in 1906 was universally applauded; and the bills he introduced and passed for reorganizing the port of London, dealing with Merchant Shipping, and enforcing the working in England of patents granted there, and so increasing the employment of British labour, were greeted with satisfaction by the tariff-reformers, who congratulated themselves that a Radical free-trader should thus throw over the policy of laisser faire. The president of the Board of Trade was the chief success of the ministry, and when Mr Asquith became premier in 1908 and promoted Mr Lloyd George to the chancellorship of the exchequer, the appointment was well received even in the City of London. For that year the budget was already settled, and it was introduced by Mr Asquith himself, the ex-chancellor; but Mr Lloyd George earned golden opinions, both at the Treasury and in parliament, by his industry and his handling of the Finance Bill, especially important for its inclusion of Old Age Pensions, in the later stages.
It was not till the time came nearer for the introduction of the budget for 1909–1910 that opinion in financial circles showed the change which was afterwards to become so marked. A considerable deficit, of about £16,000,000, was in prospect, and the chancellor of the exchequer aroused misgivings by alluding in a speech to the difficulty he had in deciding what “hen roost” to “rob.” The government had been losing ground in the country, and Mr Lloyd George and Mr Winston Churchill were conspicuously in alliance in advocating the use of the budget for introducing drastic reforms in regard to licensing and land, which the resistance of the House of Lords prevented the Radical party from effecting by ordinary legislation. The well-established doctrine that the House of Lords could not amend, though it might reject, a money-bill, coupled with the fact that it never had gone so far as to reject a budget, was relied on by the extremists as dictating the obvious party tactics; and before the year 1909 opened, the possibility of the Lords being driven to compel a dissolution by standing on their extreme rights as regards the financial provision for the year was already canvassed in political circles, though it was hardly credited that the government would precipitate a constitutional crisis of such magnitude. When Mr Lloyd George, on the 29th of April, introduced his budget, its revolutionary character, however, created widespread dismay in the City and among the propertied classes. In a very lengthy speech, which had to be interrupted for half an hour while he recovered his voice, he ended by describing it as a “war budget” against poverty, which he hoped, in the result, would become “as remote to the people of this country as the wolves which once infested its forests.” Some of the original proposals, which were much criticized, were subsequently dropped, including the permanent diversion of the Old Sinking Fund to a National Development Fund (created by a separate bill), and a tax on “ungotten minerals,” for which was substituted a tax on mineral rights. But the main features of the budget were adhered to, and eventually passed the House of Commons on the 4th of November, in spite of the persistent opposition of the scanty Unionist minority. Apart from certain non-contentious provisions, such as a tax on motor-cars, the main features of the measure were large increases in the spirit and tobacco duties, license duties, estate, legacy and succession duties, and income tax, and an elaborate and novel system of duties on land-values (“increment duty,” “reversion duty,” “undeveloped land duty”), depending on the setting up of arrangements for valuation of a highly complicated kind. The discussions on the budget entirely monopolized public attention for the year, and while the measure was defended by Mr Lloyd George in parliament with much suavity, and by Mr Asquith, Sir Edward Grey and Mr Haldane outside the House of Commons with tact and moderation, the feelings of its opponents were exasperated by a series of inflammatory public speeches at Limehouse and elsewhere from the chancellor of the exchequer, who took these opportunities to rouse the passions of the working-classes against the landed classes and the peers. When the Finance Bill went up to the House of Lords, Lord Lansdowne gave notice that on the second reading he would move “that this House is not justified in giving its consent to this bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the country,” and on the last day of November this motion was carried by an overwhelming majority of peers. The government passed a solemn resolution of protest in the House of Commons and appealed to the country; and the general election of January 1910 took place amid unexampled excitement. The Unionists gained a hundred seats over their previous numbers, but the constitutional issue undoubtedly helped the government to win a victory, depending indeed solely on the votes of the Labour members and Irish Nationalists, which a year before had seemed improbable.
Events had now made Mr Lloyd George and his financial policy the centre of the Liberal party programme; but party tactics for the moment prevented the ministry, who remained in office, from simply sending the budget up again to the Lords and allowing them to pass it. There was no majority in the Commons for the budget as such, since the Irish Nationalists only supported it as an engine for destroying the veto of the Lords and thus preparing the way for Irish Home Rule. Instead, therefore, of proceeding with the budget, the government allowed the financial year to end without one, and brought forward resolutions for curtailing the powers of the Lords, on which, if rejected by them, another appeal could be made to the people (see Parliament). Hardly, however, had the battle been arrayed when the King’s death in May upset all calculations. An immediate continuance of hostilities between the two Houses was impossible. A truce was called, and a conference arranged between four leaders from each side—Mr Lloyd George being one—to consider whether compromise on the constitutional question was not feasible. The budget for 1909–10 went quietly through, and before the August adjournment the chancellor introduced his budget for 1910–11, discussion being postponed till the autumn. It imposed no new taxation, and left matters precisely as they were. (H. Ch.)