CHAMBERLAIN in 1863), and had gradually come to take an increasingly important part in the municipal and political life of Birmingham. He was a constant speaker at the Birmingham and Edgbaston Debating Society; and when in 1868 the Birmingham Liberal Association was reorganized, he became one of its leading members. In 1869 he was elected chairman of the executive council of the new National Education League, the outcome of Mr George Dixon’s movement for promoting the education of the children of the lower classes by paying their school fees and agitating for more accommodation and a better national system. In the same year he was elected a member of the town council, and married his second wife,— a cousin of his first,—Miss Florence Kenrick (d. 1875). In 1870 he was elected a member of the first School Board for Birmingham; and for the next six years, and
Joseph Chamberlain. (From a photograph by Faissell and Sons, London.) especially after 1873, when he became leader of a majority and chairman, he actively championed the Nonconformist opposition to denominationalism. He was then regarded as a Republican—the term signifying rather that he held advanced Radical opinions, which were construed by average men in the light of the current political developments in France, than that he really favoured Republican institutions. His programme was “ free Church, free land, free schools, free labour.” At the general election of 1874 he stood as a parliamentary candidate for Sheffield, but without success. Between 1869 and 1873 he was a prominent advocate in the Birmingham town council of the gospel of municipal reform preached by Mr Dawson, Dr Dale, and Mr Bunce (of the Birmingham Post) ; and in 1873 his party obtained a majority, and he was elected mayor, an office he retained until June 1876. As mayor he had to receive the Prince and Princess of Wales on their visit in June 1874, an occasion which excited some curiosity because of his reputation as a Republican; but those who looked for an exhibition of bad taste were disappointed, and the behaviour of the Radical mayor satisfied the requirements alike of the Times and of Punch.
The period of his mayoralty was one of historic importance for Birmingham. New municipal buildings were erected, Highgate Park was opened as a place of recreation, the Free Library and Art Gallery were developed. But the great work carried through by Mr Chamberlain for Birmingham was the municipalization of the supply of gas and water, and the improvement scheme by which slums were cleared away and forty acres laid out in new streets and open spaces. The prosperity of modern Birmingham dates from 1875 and 1876, when these' admirably administered reforms were initiated, and by his share in them Mr Chamberlain became famous. It may be added here that the interest taken by him in Birmingham remained undiminished during his later life, and he was largely instrumental in starting the Birmingham University (1900). In 1876 Mr Dixon resigned his seat in Parliament, and Mr Chamberlain was returned for Birmingham in his place unopposed, as John Bright’s colleague. He made his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 4th August 1876, on Lord Sandon’s Education Bill. At this period, too, he paid much attention to the question of licensing reform, and in 1876 he examined the Gothenburg system in Sweden, and advocated a solution of the problem in England on similar lines. During 1877 the new federation of Liberal Associations which became known as the “Caucus,” was started under Mr Chamberlain’s influence in Birmingham,—its secretary, Mr Schnadhorst, quickly making himself felt as a wire-puller of exceptional ability; and the new organization had a remarkable effect in putting life into the Liberal party, which since Mr Gladstone’s retirement in 1874 had been much in need of a stimulus. When the general election came in 1880 Mr Schnadhorst’s powers were demonstrated in the successes won under his auspices. The Liberal party numbered 349, against 243 Conservatives and 60 Irish Nationalists; and the Radical section of the Liberal party, led by Mr Chamberlain and Sir Charles Dilke, was recognized by Mr Gladstone by his inclusion of the former in his Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade, and the appointment of the latter as Under Secretary for War. In his new capacity Mr Chamberlain was responsible for carrying such important measures as the Bankruptcy Act, 1887, and the Patents Act. Another Bill which he had much at heart, on Merchant Shipping, had to be abandoned, and a royal commission substituted, but the subsequent legislation in 1888-94 owed much to his efforts. The Franchise Act of 1884 was also one in which he took a leading part as a champion of the opinions of the labouring class. At this time he took the current advanced Radical views of both Irish and foreign policy, hating coercion, disliking the occupation of Egypt, and prominently defending the Transvaal settlement after Majuba. Both before and after the defeat of Mr Gladstone’s Government on the Budget in June 1885, he associated himself with what was known as the “ Unauthorized Programme,” i.e., free education, small holdings, graduated taxation, and local government. In June 1885 he made a speech at Birmingham, treating the reforms just mentioned as the “ransom” that property must pay to society for the security it enjoys—for which Lord Iddesleigh called him “ Jack Cade ” ; and he continually urged the Liberal party to take up these Radical measures. At the general election of November 1885 Mr Chamberlain was returned for West Birmingham. The Liberal strength generally was, however, reduced to 335 members, though the Radical section held their own ; and the Irish vote became necessary to Mr Gladstone if he was to command a majority. In December it was stated that Mr Gladstone intended to propose a Home Rule Bill, and in January Lord Salisbury’s ministry was defeated on the Address, on an amendment moved by Mr Jesse Collings embodying S. II. — 82