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CHAR 2/364 Public and Political: General: Personal Office: Correspondence C - D.

  Reference Description Date range  
CHAR 2/364/12-13

Copy of a letter from [Joseph] Austen Chamberlain (9 Egerton Place [London]) to WSC, writing that he had received WSC's letter [on the Irish question] with infinite regret, and had hoped that WSC might have a different message for him after seeing the Prime Minister [Herbert Asquith, later 1st Lord Oxford and Asquith]. Chamberlain adds that he would do nothing to harm national defence, and would remain at the Government's disposal for as long as the war lasted, but could not appear on a public platform with a member of the Government, when Asquith had broken the political truce, "trading on the patriotism of his opponents, to carry a most controversial Bill in its most controversial form". He tells WSC that he should realize the passionate resentment roused by the Government's actions, as Chamberlain and his allies could not use the means to defeat them because of the war. While suspicion was aroused by the Government's delay in announcing a decision, Chamberlain had still affirmed that as men of honour the Government could not take this course: finding himself mistaken, he says that he was "almost as much grieved on personal as on public grounds". In a postscript, Chamberlain informs WSC that he had sent a message to the Mayor of Birmingham, letting him know that he and WSC would not be able to come to a meeting, which must be indefinitely postponed. Typescript, sent by Sir Charles Petrie for inclusion in his biography of Chamberlain.

2 folios
12 Sep 1914
CHAR 2/364/16-17

Copy of a letter from [Joseph] Austen Chamberlain (9 Egerton Place [London]) to WSC, regretting that WSC did not agree with his message to the Mayor of Birmingham [saying that he and WSC would not be able to come to a meeting on the Irish question, which must be indefinitely postponed]. Chamberlain reminds WSC that he had told him that this was the only way he could find which did not anticipate a statement which the Prime Minister [Herbert Asquith, later 1st Lord Oxford and Asquith] was due to make on the following day, and WSC had not objected at the time. He adds that he accepted full responsibility, and believed that it was his duty to be in the House of Commons for Asquith's statement. Chamberlain then comments on WSC's last letter to him [see CHAR 2/364/14-15], on a proposal by the Opposition. Chamberlain says that WSC was mistaken, and the proposal was that all controversial legislation should be postponed until after the war, then resumed at the point it had reached when war broke out. The Government had refused this, even though it was the only way of carrying out Asquith's expressed intention that all parties should keep their position despite having to support the Government during the war. What WSC said was the Opposition's proposal had actually come from Asquith, and had been reluctantly agreed to for the sake of unity during the war, but had then been rejected by the Government, which insisted on another proposal which the Opposition had not agreed to. Chamberlain notes that WSC said there was no practical difference between the two, and in that case asks why the Government was insisting upon the one which wasn't acceptable to the Opposition. Chamberlain also notes that WSC now said that force would not be used against the Ulstermen in any circumstances, though Asquith had not mentioned this to Andrew Bonar Law [Leader of the Opposition]. He ends by agreeing that the Government had a right to the support of the Opposition during the war, and states that they would do all they could to support the national defence, but remarks that WSC must wish that his party had an equally good record for the last great war. Typescript, sent by Sir Charles Petrie for inclusion in his biography of Chamberlain.

2 folios
13 Sep 1914
CHAR 2/364/20-21

Copy of a letter from [Joseph] Austen Chamberlain (9 Egerton Place [London]) to WSC, acknowledging his letter, and supposing that like his other recent letters, WSC intended it for publication: Chamberlain says that he had not sent his own letters to the press, and would not do so unless he was obliged to. He writes that he completely disagrees with WSC's reading of the situation, but believes (with the best American authority) that if the Government had announced at the start of the war that all domestic controversy would cease, then they would have had the approval of the United States, and even of the Irish. As it was, Chamberlain states that they had betrayed the loyal Ulstermen in order to pay blackmail to the National Volunteers and their American paymasters, neither of whom would support the Government. Chamberlain asserts that he and his colleagues were doing their utmost to prevent a row, but that the Government had failed to appreciate the effects of their actions on the Opposition, which had supported them unreservedly since the war began. He recalls WSC saying that he "did not care a damn about Home Rule", and accuses him of being incapable of appreciating the feelings of those who opposed Home Rule from deep-rooted conviction. WSC and the Government had destroyed belief in the honour of public men, and also any hope that unity during the war might lead to greater agreement. Chamberlain ends by saying that he would have staked his own honour that WSC would not act as he had, and was heartbroken to find himself mistaken. Typescript, sent by Sir Charles Petrie for inclusion in his biography of Chamberlain.

2 folios
14 Sep 1914
CHAR 2/364/28

Letter from [Arthur] Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister (10 Downing Street [London]) to WSC, letting him know that Lord Halifax [Foreign Secretary, earlier Edward Wood and Lord Irwin] had told him that he didn't think there was anything that Chamberlain could say with advantage about foreign affairs, and so had better not make a statement in the House of Commons that week. Chamberlain asks WSC if he would then make his statement on the Wednesday, assuring him that it was expected and would be very welcome. Signed typescript.

1 folio
04 Dec 1939