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Law, Andrew Bonarlocked

  • E. H. H. Green

Andrew Bonar Law (1858–1923)

by Sir James Guthrie, c. 1919–21

Law, Andrew Bonar (1858–1923), businessman and prime minister, was born on 16 September 1858 in Kingston, New Brunswick, Canada. His father, the Revd James Law (1822–1882), was an Ulsterman of Scottish descent who served as Presbyterian minister of the Free Church of Scotland for the parishes of Kingston and Richibucto. His mother, Elizabeth Annie, née Kidston (d. 1860), was born in Scotland but had also migrated to Canada. Andrew Bonar Law was his parents' fourth son and fourth child—a fifth child, a daughter, was born two years after him.

Family and early life

Bonar Law, as he was generally known, spent the first twelve years of his life in New Brunswick, and surviving recordings of his voice indicate that he never completely lost the Canadian accent acquired in his youth. He was brought up in an austere Calvinist environment dominated by the brooding presence of his father, a man who, from all reports, would in the late twentieth century have been diagnosed as a depressive. Throughout his life Bonar Law was described as having a tendency to melancholy, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this stemmed from childhood influences. The family's financial position was by no means comfortable. Bonar Law's mother was related to the wealthy Kidston family of Glasgow and Helensburgh, but the Laws were dependent on James's modest stipend. On the death of Bonar Law's mother, when he was two, Janet Kidston, Bonar Law's aunt, came out from Glasgow to keep house for the Revd Law and to look after his children. In 1870 Bonar Law's father remarried; his new wife was Sophia Wood, a New Brunswick schoolmistress. As Janet Kidston's services as housekeeper and surrogate mother were no longer required she decided to return to Scotland, and suggested that Bonar Law go with her on the grounds that her wealthy relatives could provide for his education and launch him on a career in the family banking business. In 1870 Bonar Law left for Scotland, never to return to New Brunswick.

Business, marriage, and parliament

Initially Bonar Law was sent to Gilbertfield boarding-school at Hamilton, and from there he went on to Glasgow high school. He showed some academic promise, but his formal education ended in 1874 at the age of sixteen, when he was offered a position in the Kidstons' banking business. In 1885 the Kidstons decided to merge their firm with the Clydesdale Bank. With this development imminent Bonar Law was offered a partnership in a company that had close connections with Kidstons, the iron merchants William Jacks & Co. The founder of the company, William Jacks, had been adopted as Liberal candidate for the Leith district (for which he was elected MP in November 1885) and was seeking a partner to whom he could delegate most of his business responsibilities. Bonar Law himself did not have the financial resources to buy into the partnership, but his Kidston cousins provided him with the necessary funding. Thus at the age of twenty-seven Bonar Law became a substantial businessman in his own right.

Although a newcomer to the sector Bonar Law proved to be a competent and hard-working entrepreneur: the business expanded during his time at the helm, with new branches being opened in Middlesbrough in 1888 (managed by Bonar Law's elder brother Jack) and in London in 1894. One of William Jacks's most important business links was with the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company. The German firm Krupps was also a major customer, purchasing large quantities of iron ore through Jacks. As a businessman Bonar Law gained a reputation, in Lord Blake's words, for being 'quick, efficient, hardworking, straightforward, a trifle dictatorial' (Blake, 35). Certainly by the late 1890s he was well known and well respected by the Glasgow business community, and he had seats on the boards of a number of companies.

Although his formal schooling ended relatively early Bonar Law appears to have been something of an autodidact thereafter. In later life he claimed to have read Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire three times by the age of twenty-one, and developed an 'encyclopaedic knowledge' of the works of Thomas Carlyle. He attended lectures at Glasgow University, and was a member of numerous essay and debating societies. A teetotaller, his social life was not based upon parties or revelry. He disliked music, and therefore dancing, and regarded eating as a utilitarian rather than an epicurean or social occasion. His only vice was tobacco, which he indulged throughout his life through pipe smoking and ample supplies of cigars. He was not, however, unsocial. He helped found a tennis club at Helensburgh, and played golf whenever he had the time. Indoor games also proved somewhat of a passion: he was a keen and talented chess player, and was equally enthusiastic and skilful at cards, especially bridge, which became an almost fanatical pastime (in later years political colleagues seeking to tempt Bonar Law to attend weekend political gatherings saw the promise of a good bridge game as vital bait).

If Bonar Law's business career did not preclude recreation neither did it prevent romance. In 1890 he met Annie Pitcairn Robley (d. 1909), the daughter of a shipbroker who lived in Helensburgh. She evidently made a profound impression upon him, for he was induced to attend dances and fancy-dress balls in her company. They became engaged towards the end of the year, and on 24 March 1891 were married at the West Free Church of Helensburgh. After a honeymoon in Paris they returned to live in Helensburgh. From the outset the marriage was a source of happiness and security for both partners. They were to have seven children, although the eldest was stillborn. Their second son was Richard Kidston Law, first Baron Coleraine (1901–1980). Initially they lived in a house called Seabank, which was given to them by Bonar Law's aunt as a wedding present. With a growing family they required larger accommodation, provided by Annie's childhood home, Kintillo, which they inherited on the death of Mr Robley. This was to be their main residence until 1909, when the family moved to Pembroke Lodge in Kensington.

Bonar Law had been introduced to politics in the 1870s. The Kidstons were ardent Conservatives and their house provided a meeting point for local Conservative notables, and Bonar Law adhered to the Kidston political faith. As a young man he became a member of the Glasgow Parliamentary Debating Association, where he gained the kind of oratorical training that the Oxford and Cambridge unions provided for many of his future colleagues. His devotion to business and family life circumscribed his political activities, and he was not particularly active in local politics. By the late 1890s both his business and family were secure, and in April 1897 he mentioned to one correspondent the possibility of becoming a parliamentary candidate. Early in 1898 he was named the prospective Conservative candidate for the Blackfriars and Hutchesontown division of Glasgow, hitherto a safe Liberal seat held by the Gladstonian A. D. Provand against the Conservatives' general election landslide of 1895. However, Bonar Law was fortunate enough to contest the seat at the election of September 1900, when the so-called ‘jingo hurricane’ whipped up by the South African War saw the Conservatives achieve an even greater victory than in 1895. Bonar Law rode the ‘khaki’ wave into parliament with a majority of 1000—his national political career was thus launched when he was forty-two.

Tariff reform

On entering parliament Bonar Law relinquished his active partnership in Jacks, but he retained shareholdings in the company, as well as his holdings in the Clydesdale Bank and his other directorships. Together these brought him an annual income of £6000. He also benefited from Kidston family legacies. The combination of his investments, director's fees, and legacies ensured that Bonar Law had the financial independence and security for a full-time political career. By no means a traditional tory, he was however typical of the new breed of urban Conservative politician who had emerged in increasing numbers from the pineries and vineries of Britain's affluent suburbs in the late nineteenth century, and who had been so crucial in extending the party's social constituency in Britain's still fast-growing urban centres.

Bonar Law made his maiden speech in the House of Commons during the debate on the address in February 1901, defending the government against an attack by David Lloyd George on the British army's treatment of Boer families. His speech gained little notice, largely because another new MP, Winston Churchill, made his maiden speech on the same day, and, as the son of a famous father, Churchill's speech received more attention. He soon became discontented with parliamentary life. In a mood of depression he told Austen Chamberlain, 'Austen, this is no place for me. It's all very well for men like you who came into it [politics] young; but if I had known then what I know now, I would never have stood for Parliament' (J. A. Chamberlain, Down the Years, 1935, 224). He made little impression in the 1901 parliamentary session, but on 22 April 1902 he made an effective intervention in a debate over the decision by the chancellor of the exchequer, Sir Michael Hicks Beach, to introduce a 1 s. per quarter tariff on imported wheat. The Liberal opposition denounced the duty as the thin end of a protectionist wedge, a threat to Britain's established free-trade policy, and an indication that the Conservatives were attempting, covertly, to reintroduce the reviled corn laws that had led to ‘dear food’ in the era before their repeal in 1846. Rather than flatly denying the Liberal argument he counter-attacked, accusing the Liberals of treating free trade as a theological creed rather than an economic policy; he acknowledged that free trade was probably at that juncture the best policy for Britain, but that did not mean it would always be the case. Speaking without notes Bonar Law buttressed his case with trade statistics and used his reputation as a successful businessman to press home his case with an air of authority, which marked him out as an ‘expert’.

In July 1902 Bonar Law was appointed by the new prime minister, Arthur Balfour, as parliamentary secretary to the Board of Trade under Gerald Balfour, the prime minister's brother. His parliamentary duties were relatively minor, for Gerald Balfour was also in the Commons and took most of the responsibility. He made one important speech in November 1902 on the Brussels sugar convention, but otherwise his duties were quite mundane. The most significant development in terms of his future came in the shape of events quite beyond his control. On 15 May 1903 Joseph Chamberlain made his famous speech in Birmingham that launched what came to be known as the tariff reform campaign.

At the core of Chamberlain's campaign was a proposal to link the British and colonial economies through reciprocal tariff arrangements: the colonies were to give British manufactured goods preferential tariff treatment, and the British were to do the same for colonial agricultural goods, which necessarily entailed imposing tariffs on imported foodstuffs, which came to be known as ‘food taxes’. Chamberlain's initiative divided the Conservative Party and transformed the British political scene. From 1903 to the outbreak of the First World War it was impossible for a British politician not to have a view on the tariff question. Bonar Law certainly had a view—he was committed to the tariff reform cause. As his speech in April 1902 had indicated, he did not see free trade as an inviolable principle; he saw it as a policy which was either good or bad depending on the circumstances, and in his view circumstances had shifted to the point where Britain's adherence to free trade was no longer tenable. Here he was in tune with much Conservative back-bench and grass-roots opinion. Many in the Conservative Party were either increasingly hostile to or sceptical about adhering to free trade in a competitive international economy in which Britain's main rivals were protectionist. For Bonar Law, familiar as he was with the increasing pressure that British industry, especially the iron trade, was facing from foreign competition and import penetration, scepticism about free trade was understandable and logical.

Tariff reform was a dominant issue in Bonar Law's political life from 1903 to 1914. The great majority of his most important speeches from 1904 to 1912 (when the Irish question began to occupy equal amounts of his time) were devoted to the fallacies of free trade and the need for imperial preference and industrial protection. Determined that the case for tariffs should be properly researched and rigorously presented, he sought advice from sympathetic economists, most notably W. J. Ashley, the professor of commerce at Birmingham University, to whom he commented in December 1904 that 'There is nothing … which tells more against us than the idea that scientific authority is against us' (A. Ashley, William James Ashley, 1932, 135).

Conservative front-bencher

Tariff reform was the vehicle which took Bonar Law to the centre, and ultimately to the top, of the Conservative Party. Chamberlain regarded him as one of the ablest members of the tariff reform ranks. Perhaps equally important, Bonar Law was never openly critical of Arthur Balfour's leadership. As a consequence he enjoyed the best of both worlds. After he lost his seat in the Liberal landslide of January 1906, he was soon (May 1906) offered a safe seat in the Camberwell (Dulwich) constituency. With the Conservatives' Commons contingent reduced to 157, Balfour the subject of both open and covert criticism, and Chamberlain rendered hors de combat by a stroke, there was a vacuum waiting to be filled. Opportunity beckoned for any able parliamentary performers in the much-thinned Conservative ranks, and men such as F. E. Smith, Arthur Steel-Maitland, and Bonar Law were able to take advantage of this situation. Although he continued to be, along with Austen Chamberlain, the most prominent spokesman for the tariff cause, he also broadened his portfolio. In 1908 he made a major intervention in the Commons debate on the Liberal government's licensing legislation, defending the liquor trade against what he saw as a politically motivated attack. He followed up his parliamentary efforts with an acerbic correspondence with the Liberal president of the Board of Trade, the renegade tory Winston Churchill. At a time when the Conservatives could do little in the face of the Liberals' overwhelming Commons majority, such aggressive action buoyed Conservative spirits and enhanced the reputation of the actor.

Bonar Law was also prominent in attempts to construct a positive response to the Liberal government's social reforms. Along with a group of younger Conservative MPs and publicists, including Edward Goulding, J. W. Hills, Leo Amery, and Fabian Ware, Bonar Law played a major role in developing an ‘unauthorized programme’ of Conservative social reform proposals, published in the Morning Post in October 1908. Included in the programme were ideas for an extension of the pensions system (through making it contributory), a national insurance scheme, regulation of so-called ‘sweated trades’, and land reform to create a substantial class of smallholding owner-occupiers. Crucially, these reforms were to be underpinned and financed by tariffs to protect employment and raise revenue. In the 1909 parliamentary session, as the leading Conservative respondent to the Liberal government's legislation on labour exchanges and the Trade Boards Act (which regulated the sweated trades), he struck a positive note, welcoming both initiatives while adding that tariffs were essential if either mechanism was to fulfil its function effectively.

For Bonar Law the run-up to the general election of January 1910 was marked not only by arduous political and parliamentary activity but also by personal tragedy. In the summer of 1909 his wife had become ill, and specialists advised an operation on her gall bladder, which was carried out at the end of October. At first the operation appeared to have been a success, but three days after the operation, on 31 October, she collapsed and died. Bonar Law was overwhelmed with grief, and the melancholy to which he was always prone temporarily paralysed him. Briefly he considered retirement from public life, but, partly at the urging of his colleagues, but perhaps more importantly because it provided him with a distraction from his loss, he chose to throw himself into the political fray with even greater vigour.

The January 1910 election was taken as a mandate for the Liberals to pass the ‘people's budget’, but the Liberal government also announced its intention to reduce the powers of the House of Lords. Edward VII, who died in May 1910, had indicated that he would wish a further election to test public opinion on this issue, and his successor, George V, was of a similar view. Inter-party negotiations designed to produce a compromise on the constitutional question broke up without result in early November 1910, and another general election was called as the Liberals sought a mandate for constitutional change.

The Conservatives faced two key questions: first, whether ‘one more heave’ would turn the Liberals out, and, second, whether they could achieve this while still committed to a tariff reform platform that included proposals for duties on imported foodstuffs. Opinion in the party was divided as to whether the food tax was an electoral incubus. Arthur Balfour inclined to the view that it was, and in April 1910 he attempted to dilute the food tax problem by announcing that under any new tariff regime colonial wheat would not have to pay even a preferential tariff but would enter the UK duty free. Even committed tariff advocates, including Bonar Law, were willing to accept this as a reasonable course of action, but the question still remained as to whether this would be sufficient to reassure the electorate, especially in the key electoral battleground of Lancashire. The dominant figure in Lancashire Conservatism was the seventeenth earl of Derby, who suggested to Balfour in October 1910 that a leading tariff reformer contest a Lancashire constituency in order to carry the fight to the Liberals, and proposed Bonar Law as the ideal candidate. Bonar Law agreed to leave his Dulwich constituency and contest the seat of North West Manchester, and at the same time secured the candidacy of his new friend Max Aitken, another tariff reformer and product of New Brunswick, for the Lancashire seat of Ashton under Lyne.

In the December 1910 general election both Bonar Law and Aitken fought their campaigns exclusively on the tariff issue, but whereas Aitken was successful Bonar Law failed to make the hoped-for breakthrough. In spite of his defeat in the Manchester contest, his tenacious and much-publicized campaign made him a genuinely national figure and a Conservative hero, while he developed a close relationship with Lord Derby. Derby and other Conservative notables in Lancashire put pressure on him to play down the food tax aspect of the tariff case in his campaign, and suggested that the Conservatives promise a referendum on food taxes if elected. He was persuaded by this argument, and in turn his views influenced Balfour, who announced at the Albert Hall in early December that a Conservative government would hold such a referendum if the Liberals pledged to do likewise on the question of Irish home rule. The announcement made Balfour unpopular with committed tariff reformers, though Bonar Law, who only publicly supported it after the announcement had been made, escaped direct association with this ‘betrayal’.

Shortly after his defeat at North West Manchester Bonar Law returned to parliament as MP for another Lancashire constituency, Bootle, after a by-election in March 1911. In June 1911 he was made a privy councillor in the coronation honours. The political agenda in the spring and summer of 1911 was dominated by Liberal plans to remove the veto powers of the House of Lords. At the end of June the Liberal premier, H. H. Asquith, made it known that the king had promised to create enough Liberal peers to give them a majority in the Lords if the upper chamber rejected the government's constitutional reforms. The Conservative Party was divided over how to respond to this development. At a meeting of the shadow cabinet on 21 July Balfour advocated a policy of non-resistance to the Parliament Bill. Bonar Law supported this position and thereby found himself opposed to some of his closest colleagues in the tariff reform campaign, notably Austen Chamberlain and F. E. Smith. Bonar Law's stance was based on pragmatism. The Parliament Bill still left the upper chamber a two-year delaying power, and in the circumstances he felt this was better than forcing the monarch to create a Liberal majority in the House of Lords. If that were to happen, he explained in a letter to The Times on 26 July, then the Liberals would be able to carry 'in a single session Bills to establish Home Rule [for Ireland], to disestablish the Church in Wales, and to gerrymander the constituencies'. The Parliament Bill was passed by the House of Lords on 11 August, to a howl of protest from the ‘diehard’ faction in the Conservative Party that had advocated all-out resistance. Criticism of Arthur Balfour reached new peaks of intensity, and on 8 November 1911 he announced his decision to resign the party leadership.

Conservative leader

The Conservative hierarchy, especially the chief whip, Lord Balcarres, wanted to settle the leadership question quickly. Three candidates, Austen Chamberlain, Walter Long, and Bonar Law, were put forward at the meeting of the parliamentary party held at the Carlton Club on 13 November. After Chamberlain, the favoured candidate of the Conservative whips and Conservative central office, and Long, a Wiltshire landowner more in keeping with the specifically tory tradition, both withdrew their candidacies, Bonar Law was elected unopposed by a unanimous vote. Two factors worked to Bonar Law's advantage. The first was that the party wished to avoid a contest and the likely legacy of bitterness between Chamberlain and Long and their respective supporters; Bonar Law's position as a compromise candidate had a great deal to offer. The second was Bonar Law's political trajectory over the previous year. He had retained his credibility as a tariff reformer, but had distanced himself from the more extreme positions with which Chamberlain was associated.

On hearing of Bonar Law's election Lloyd George is rumoured to have remarked 'the fools have stumbled on the right man by accident'. However, in the first three years of Bonar Law's leadership the Welsh Wizard's judgement seemed deeply misplaced. On the food tax question Bonar Law faced a major internal party crisis. After the 1910 defeats there was a growing body of opinion within the party, led by the Lancashire Conservatives, which saw the food taxes as a severe handicap. Under increasing pressure from this faction Bonar Law sought to modify the Conservative position. Speaking in Max Aitken's constituency of Ashton under Lyne in December 1912 Bonar Law announced that under a future Conservative government any initiative for food taxes would have to come from the colonies. This statement outraged the still numerous and vocal section of the party that was committed to what they called 'the full tariff programme'. Through December 1912 and into the new year tensions within the party ran dangerously high. Bonar Law himself and his leader in the upper chamber, Lord Lansdowne, were the subject of much criticism, and threatened to resign together. A hasty but intensive round of negotiations between Bonar Law and Lansdowne and other leading figures resulted in the parliamentary party sending a memorial to Bonar Law on 10 January 1913, signed by 231 of the 280 Conservative MPs, expressing confidence in his leadership, and accepting his Ashton under Lyne formula on the tariff question. Emboldened by this vote of confidence Bonar Law went a stage further in a speech at Edinburgh later in January, declaring that if the Conservatives won a general election they would not introduce food taxes without holding another election. His ‘triumph’, though, was more apparent than real. Rather than peace breaking out in the Conservative Party there was more of an armed truce. In March 1913 the party's new chief whip, Edmund Talbot, reported that Bonar Law was 'hankering after his bridge and golf' and complaining that 'the glory of his position is much diminished … by reason of the discordant cries of his followers and the difficulty of satisfying his adherents' (J. S. Sandars to A. Balfour, 23 March 1913, BL, Add. MS 49768, fols. 42–5).

Ulster crisis

Bonar Law also had difficulties in uniting his party behind his stance on the Irish question, following the Liberal promise of home rule for Ireland announced in the spring of 1912. From the outset he saw the exclusion of Ulster from Irish home rule as the critical issue, a perspective shaped by his family ties and the politics of Glasgow protestantism. From mid-1912 he also developed close relations with Edward Carson, who emerged as the great champion of Ulster during the home-rule debates. With the Lords veto gone there was little the Conservatives could do to prevent home rule passing in some form, and Ulster was acknowledged as the weakest link in the home-rule case. Carson's argument that exclusion of Ulster was 'the best settlement if Home Rule is inevitable' (Lansdowne to Bonar Law, 26 Sept 1913, Parl. Arch., 30/2/27) thus carried some force. But not all Conservatives agreed with Bonar Law's ‘Ulsterization’ of the Irish question. Southern Irish unionists were appalled that the Conservative leadership appeared willing to surrender their interests. A significant number of mainland Conservatives, who found a voice in Walter Long's Union Defence League, which distanced itself from Bonar Law's leadership, also stressed that the party's raison d'être was defence of the union, and not just Ulster.

Bonar Law's Ulsterization of the Irish issue was a high-risk strategy. It led him to support the activities of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and to declare that, no matter what form it took, he would back Ulster's resistance to home rule. This was tantamount to offering support for armed resistance to the legal authority of an elected government. He may have apologized to Asquith in advance for the fact that he was to be 'a little vicious' in debate, but the tone of his speeches in 1913–14 and the disruptive behaviour of his followers in the Commons ran counter to established norms of parliamentary behaviour. He even endorsed a proposal that the Lords amend the annual Army Act to the effect that troops could not be deployed to subdue resistance to home rule in Ulster. His party chairman warned that if the Conservatives appeared to be responsible for fomenting civil disorder in Ulster then they would be condemned by public opinion. He himself recognized this, and in negotiations with Asquith in July 1914 he showed himself more willing to compromise than his public statements indicated. But the UVF and other militants on the ground in Ulster were not under his control and, having helped to whip up their militancy, it would have been difficult for him to advocate a compromise solution without risking a violent outburst in Ulster and a backlash against his leadership.

In the period from November 1911 to the outbreak of the First World War it is difficult to see Bonar Law's leadership of the Conservative Party as a great success. In the face of continuing criticism from within his own party he threatened to resign on average about once every six months, and there was a sense of desperation in his behaviour over Ireland. The party's landed grandees made snide remarks about the poor quality of the catering provided at his house in Kensington on the 'wrong side of the park', and, apart from Max Aitken, he had few friends with whom to share his burdens. In short, Bonar Law looked like what he was: an inexperienced, often isolated, second-choice leader struggling to overcome a series of severe crises which, in truth, were probably beyond the capacity of any individual to solve.

War and coalition

Bonar Law's situation, and that of his party, were transformed by the First World War. Initially the war proved awkward; it was difficult to criticize the government for fear of being labelled unpatriotic. Scandals over shell shortages, reversals at sea, stalemate on the western front, and disaster in the Dardanelles ensured that by the early summer of 1915 unease in the Conservative ranks over the war was becoming uncontrollable. Following bad news from the Dardanelles, swiftly followed by the resignation of Admiral Fisher as first sea lord, Bonar Law held a meeting with Lloyd George on 17 May. When Bonar Law made it clear that he could no longer hold back from publicly criticizing the government, Lloyd George responded that 'we must have a coalition' (Blake, 243), and he immediately took Bonar Law to see Asquith. After the meeting at 10 Downing Street Bonar Law consulted Lord Lansdowne and Austen Chamberlain, and they sent Asquith what was tantamount to an ultimatum, indicating that unless the government was reconstructed the Conservatives would press for a critical debate on the conduct of the war. Asquith had little option but to comply, and on 18 May informed Bonar Law that he had accepted the resignation of the entire cabinet in order to reconstruct the government.

Few Conservatives gained high office in the Asquith coalition, the formation of which was announced on 19 May 1915, and Bonar Law himself merely became colonial secretary. He and his followers were more interested in which Liberals to exclude, and made it a condition of joining the government that Churchill be asked to leave the Admiralty. The ‘pro-German’ Haldane was also targeted for removal. It is possible that Bonar Law did not press his own claims more strongly as a result of being embroiled in a somewhat embarrassing scandal. On becoming leader of the Conservative Party Bonar Law had resigned his company directorships and his partnership in William Jacks, but he still used the banking facilities of Jacks & Co. as a deposit for surplus sums at his disposal. He thus had no direct connection with the firm, but he still had a connection, and his brother Jack remained a partner. Early in May 1915 the company was accused of trading with the enemy, having delivered a cargo of iron ore from Canada to the German steel and arms manufacturer Krupps in August 1914. There was never any serious suggestion that Bonar Law would be accused of involvement, but his brother narrowly escaped prosecution, and two other partners in the firm, both friends of the Conservative leader, were imprisoned as a result of the case. The scandal hardly provided the best background for him to conduct delicate negotiations about the form of the coalition.

On the formation of the coalition Bonar Law was made a member of the war committee, a large group of senior cabinet members who discussed overall war strategy. He emerged the strongest advocate of evacuation from the Dardanelles. The war committee decided in early November to postpone any decision until Lord Kitchener, the war minister, had visited and reported on the Gallipoli front. Bonar Law initially supported this action, but then changed his mind and demanded an immediate evacuation, offering his resignation on the issue. Fortunately for Bonar Law, Asquith prevailed upon him to wait, for Kitchener's report supported the evacuation proposal, and on 23 November the decision was taken to abandon the Gallipoli campaign. The outcome strengthened Bonar Law's position. When, in November, Asquith moved to reduce the unwieldy war committee's size he initially proposed five members: himself, Balfour, Lloyd George, Reginald McKenna, and Kitchener. But he could no longer afford to ignore or dismiss the Conservative leader's views or sensibilities, and reluctantly felt constrained to add Bonar Law's name to the list.

During 1916 Bonar Law became increasingly critical of Asquith personally and disillusioned with his conduct of the war, while events at home and continued problems with the war effort served to widen the political gulf between them. In April the cabinet's decision to introduce conscription saw Asquith struggling to appease Liberal opponents of the measure. Bonar Law acknowledged Asquith's party difficulties, but was impatient with the premier's indecisiveness. Lloyd George, facing the same party constraints as Asquith, had advocated compulsory service as essential to the war effort, and not for the first time Bonar Law found himself closer to Lloyd George than to Asquith on questions of war policy. During the conscription debates the Easter rising in Ireland took place. The government was united in suppressing the rising and disposing of its leaders in the aftermath. But divisions emerged over possible longer-term arrangements for the governance of Ireland. He supported the agreement brokered by Lloyd George between Edward Carson and the moderate Irish nationalist leader John Redmond, which would have seen a temporary introduction of home rule, excluding Ulster, with a permanent solution to be decided by an Imperial Conference on the cessation of the war. In some respects Bonar Law was fortunate that the scheme failed, in that his security as Conservative leader may well have been threatened if he had continued to support a measure that attracted so much Conservative opposition. One lesson he drew from the Irish situation was that he could not afford to be too ‘coalitionist’ in his outlook.

Lord Kitchener's death early in June 1916 required the appointment of a new war minister. Bonar Law favoured Lloyd George as his successor, on the strength of the latter's excellent work at the Ministry of Munitions. He met Lloyd George at Max Aitken's house on 11 June and agreed to support his claims to the post. After finding Asquith absent from London, he drove to the prime minister's country house and, after being kept waiting, found Asquith willing to offer Bonar Law the post. Feeling honour-bound by his agreement with Lloyd George, Bonar Law declined, at which point Asquith agreed to Lloyd George's succession and returned to his guests. Bonar Law considered that Asquith had handled the question with unpardonable levity, and was further alienated from the prime minister.

Conscription and Ireland had provoked Conservative criticisms of their Liberal partners, with some of the critics, including powerful figures such as Lord Milner and Carson, advocating a reconstructed government led by Lloyd George. With the British offensive on the Somme, launched on 1 July 1916, proving ineffective and costly the government faced increasingly hostile Conservative views in both parliament and the press. In early November Bonar Law felt the strength of Conservative opinion when, as colonial secretary, he had to defend the government's decision to sell captured German businesses in west Africa to the highest non-German bidder. On the Conservative benches there was a call for only British firms to be considered, and sixty-five Conservative MPs voted against the policy defended by their leader. He later highlighted the importance of this rebellion as indicating that his party's hostility to the government was reaching such a point that neither he nor other Conservative ministers could remain in the cabinet.

Manoeuvres within the cabinet itself, in which Bonar Law played a leading role, finally brought about Asquith's replacement as prime minister by Lloyd George. He strongly supported Lloyd George's proposal of November 1916 to streamline the governmental war machinery through the creation of a small war council with authority over all departments. He and other senior Conservatives saw Lloyd George as the only person to chair this new body, even though Asquith would be reduced to a cipher. When, on 4 December, Asquith demanded that Lloyd George issue a statement publicly affirming the prime minister's continued overall authority, the war minister resigned. Bonar Law then informed Asquith that if Lloyd George felt obliged to resign, he and the other Conservative members of the cabinet would do likewise. Asquith had no real option but to tender his own resignation on 5 December, for without Conservative support his government was unsustainable.

On the evening of 5 December 1916 the king invited Bonar Law, as the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons, to form a government. When Asquith declined to serve under him, he advised the king to invite Lloyd George instead, for only he could attract enough Liberal support to head an effective coalition. The new government under Lloyd George, formed on 7–8 December, still contained a large number of Liberal ministers, but the senior posts were dominated by Conservatives, and Bonar Law himself became chancellor of the exchequer, leader of the House of Commons, and the effective deputy premier. Every morning he would meet Lloyd George and discuss policy for perhaps two hours, with the prime minister using him as a sounding-board for ideas and proposals—if they survived Bonar Law's scrutiny Lloyd George was confident they would survive cabinet and the Commons.

Bonar Law's main task as chancellor of the exchequer was to finance the war effort. As a former businessman he possessed enough financial and economic knowledge to develop his own ideas, and was capable of pursuing his own line of policy. In January 1917 he overruled his officials and (successfully) floated a new war loan at an interest rate of 5 per cent, as opposed to the 6 per cent level advised by the Treasury and the bank, a reversal of the earlier policy of high money rates. The national war bonds which he launched in October 1917 proved a remarkably successful device for ensuring a steady flow of money to pay for the war. In the fifth and sixth war budgets over which he presided, in May 1917 and April 1918 respectively, he sought to achieve two aims: to raise as much money for the ‘war chest’ as possible at as little long-term cost as could be achieved. In 1918 he budgeted for a revenue income of £842 million and an expenditure of £2972 million. The borrowings of over £2000 million in that year alone were three times the pre-war national debt, but nevertheless Bonar Law as chancellor sustained Britain's record, unrivalled among the other belligerents, of funding 26 per cent of wartime expenditure from revenue. He was in this respect as orthodox a chancellor as circumstances permitted, and thereby helped sustain the government's credit-worthiness in the last two years of the war.

Bonar Law had little direct input into war strategy in the Lloyd George coalition. He was less inclined than Lloyd George to criticize the high command, although during the Passchendaele offensive of 1917 he was privately sceptical of the military establishment's strategy. As leader of the House of Commons he had to keep the coalition's parliamentary cohorts in order. Lloyd George's unilateral decision to bring Churchill back into the cabinet in mid-July 1917 did not go down well with either Bonar Law or his party, but Bonar Law's insistence that Churchill be excluded from strategic decision making soothed Conservative tempers. In April 1918 criticisms of the government's conduct of the war by General F. D. Maurice briefly threatened the coalition's stability. But Bonar Law, personally attacked by Maurice, stood by Lloyd George as the prime minister demolished Maurice's and Asquith's arguments in the Commons, and no Conservatives voted with Asquith's censure motion. Conservative loyalty was less assured when the issue of home rule came to the fore again in the wake of the decision to introduce conscription in Ireland in the spring of 1918. There was strong Conservative opposition to any suggestion that home rule be enacted as a quid pro quo for Irish conscription, and Bonar Law faced some difficult moments until the discovery of Sinn Féin contacts with Germany effectively sidelined the issue. With the military tide turning in the summer the coalition's political problems evaporated.

Bonar Law suffered heavy personal losses during the war through the deaths of his second eldest son, Charles, killed in action at the battle of Gaza in April 1917, and of his eldest son, James, a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, who was shot down and killed in France six months later. Work provided a distraction, but in future years friends and colleagues claimed that he never fully recovered from these bereavements. In political terms, though, he had a ‘good war’. By taking the Conservatives into the Asquith coalition he had got his party into the corridors of power through the back door, and ended the Conservatives' longest period in opposition since the mid-nineteenth century. In November 1918 he had become, if not ‘the man that won the war’, then at least the man who had stood by the man who won the war. The day after the armistice he chaired a meeting of Conservative MPs, and they decided to fight the forthcoming general election as supporters of the coalition. In his view Lloyd George's popularity was so great that there was no option but to continue to serve under him, but he was also clear that his party would continue to be an independent political entity. At the December 1918 general election the vast majority of candidates who received the so-called ‘coupon’—a joint letter of endorsement from Lloyd George and Bonar Law which was sent to all coalition candidates—were Conservatives. Thus although the election produced a coalition victory, the Conservatives were dominant—holding 333 seats to the Coalition Liberals' 136. Bonar Law himself decided to leave Bootle and return to Glasgow, where he was elected for the Central division.

Post-war administration

In the new cabinet Bonar Law relinquished the exchequer, but to the chagrin of the new chancellor, Austen Chamberlain, he continued to live at 11 Downing Street in order to be close to Lloyd George. Bonar Law's official positions were leader of the house and lord privy seal, but in effect he was deputy prime minister. In the early part of 1919 he spent long periods in Paris with Lloyd George and the British delegation to the Versailles conference. He was not predisposed to a ‘Carthaginian’ peace, and the moderation of many of his pronouncements, both public and private, placed him closer to critics of Versailles such as his one-time Treasury secretary J. M. Keynes. But Lloyd George was the dominant British voice at Versailles, and increasingly Bonar Law remained in Britain to manage domestic affairs. The most pressing problem during the spring and summer of 1919 was labour unrest, particularly on the railways and in the mines. With the government benches dominated by Conservative MPs, many of them ‘hard-faced’ businessmen who had ‘done well out of the war’, there was not a great deal of sympathy for the workers' demands. Bonar Law was not as hard-faced as many of his supporters, and hoped for conciliation rather than confrontation. But he was also clear that, as the mines and the railways were still under government control, strikes in these industries were strikes against the state, and that the state had to defend itself to the utmost. This stance—a mixture of publicly liberal, conciliatory words backed up with, if necessary, aggressive anti-union actions—set the tone not only for the coalition's approach to industrial relations over the next three years but also for the Conservatives' strategy in the mid- to late 1920s. In the short term Bonar Law's insistence on resistance informed the Emergency Powers Act passed in 1920, but it also informed the future industrial relations strategy of the man who was eventually to become Bonar Law's successor as Conservative leader, Stanley Baldwin.

Not surprisingly the Irish question returned to dog British politics. Here Bonar Law seemed to achieve what had been his chief objective since 1912. He agreed with Lloyd George's stance that, with a Home Rule Bill already on the statute book, the Union could no longer be preserved, but Lloyd George also agreed with Bonar Law's view that Ulster was not to be coerced. A cabinet committee worked throughout 1919 to draw up amendments to the existing home-rule legislation, and concluded that separate parliaments for Ulster and the south was the best solution. On 30 March 1920 Bonar Law made what was generally regarded as his finest parliamentary speech, defending these proposals against an attack by Asquith, and the Government of Ireland Act became law in December 1920. The following year the scheme was rejected by the Irish nationalists in the south, but Bonar Law's beloved Ulster was apparently secure.

In early 1920 by-elections began to go against the government, and relations between local coalition Conservative and Liberal associations were deteriorating. One proposed solution was for a fusion of the two parties, an idea actively canvassed by Arthur Balfour and endorsed by other Conservative luminaries such as Austen Chamberlain and F. E. Smith. Bonar Law was not so enthusiastic about fusion, though coalitionism remained his creed. Rumblings of protest in the Conservative ranks against the coalition continued, but they were controllable and his own leadership was not threatened. Personal matters were a deeper concern. In the summer of 1920 his daughter Isabel married Sir Frederick Sykes, the controller of civil aviation and a friend of Max Aitken (now Lord Beaverbrook). The event was an upheaval for Bonar Law. In the years immediately after his wife's death his sister, Mary, had supervised his domestic affairs, but towards the end of the war Isabel Law had become the main source of both practical assistance and close family affection. Her leaving home came as a shock to her father—his immediate reaction to her engagement was to tell Beaverbrook, 'Max, a dreadful thing has happened' (Blake, 419). The initial concern soon passed and Bonar Law developed close ties with his son-in-law, but he returned to living as a single man.

Bonar Law's own health was not good in the last half of 1920. In March 1921, when he made his rectorial address to the University of Glasgow (he had been elected rector in late 1919), some observers noted that his hesitant speech marked a contrast to his normally fluent style. He was suffering from dangerously high blood pressure, and his doctors advised complete rest. The announcement in the Commons of his resignation, on 17 March 1921, came as a shock to the political world. He left for a holiday in Cannes, remaining in France, apart from two brief visits to England, until the end of September 1921. By the late summer his health and spirits had recovered to the point where there was no physical obstacle to his return. What was required, however, was an incentive.

Ireland was the issue which saw Bonar Law re-enter political life. During his absence in France the government negotiated a treaty with Sinn Féin which appeared to compromise the security guaranteed to Ulster by the legislation of 1920. A large body of Conservative opinion was critical of the treaty's implications for Ulster, and Bonar Law's successor as Conservative leader, Austen Chamberlain, was attacked by his own back-benchers. Bonar Law initially intervened through the press, letting it be known to the editor of The Scotsman that he defended Ulster's right to be excluded from an all-Ireland parliament and that he opposed any move to coerce Ulster. Having satisfied himself that Ulster would retain the right to its own assembly he returned to the Commons to speak in favour of the Irish treaty in mid-December 1921. He also spoke out on economic and foreign affairs in early 1922, and though both in private and in public he denied that personal ambition motivated his interventions, a growing number of Conservatives, disillusioned with Austen Chamberlain's seeming subservience to Lloyd George, regarded him as ‘the king over the water’.

By early October 1922 many Conservatives, both in parliament and in the constituencies, had become irreconcilably hostile to the coalition. They were alarmed by Lloyd George's aggressive stance on Graeco-Turkish relations—the so-called Chanak crisis—which created the possibility that Britain could be dragged into another conflict. Bonar Law signalled opposition to the government's stance in a letter published in both The Times and Beaverbrook's Daily Express on 7 October, arguing that no British interests were at stake in the Near East and that Britain could not 'act alone as the policeman of the world' (A. B. Law, Daily Express, 7 Oct 1922). His intervention drew a direct, sympathetic response from a number of Conservative MPs, who wrote asking him to reassume the party leadership, though he remained hesitant about openly challenging the government and his successor. The issue at stake in the autumn of 1922 was whether the Conservatives should reassert their political independence. By-election reversals, particularly those occasioned by the intervention of Anti-Waste League candidates in late 1921 and 1922, indicated that grass-roots Conservative activists were disillusioned with government economic policy, and Ireland and Chanak only served to increase discontent.

At a meeting of Conservative ministers and MPs held at the Carlton Club on 19 October 1922 Austen Chamberlain, wishing to confirm his authority and to end Conservative criticism of the coalition, argued that the interests of the party were best served by continuing the coalition, if necessary by fusion. Against him, many Conservatives felt that the government's policies and the very existence of the coalition were alienating Conservatives in the constituencies. Bonar Law was undecided as to his own course of action until the eve of the meeting, when he made it clear to both Lord Curzon, the foreign secretary, and Archibald Salvidge, the Conservatives' Liverpool party boss, that he would speak against the coalition. His decision was based on a conviction that the Conservative Party would be united behind the idea of ‘independence’. He was proved right. His speech against the coalition was greeted with enthusiasm by the meeting, and the party voted to end the coalition. Lloyd George was thereby placed in a hopeless parliamentary position, and he resigned the premiership immediately. Austen Chamberlain, having lost the confidence of his party, tendered his resignation of the Conservative leadership.

Prime minister

On the evening of 19 October 1922 Bonar Law was asked to go to Buckingham Palace, the clear indication being that the king wished him to form a government. Bonar Law demurred on the grounds that he could not take the premiership without being leader of his party. A further meeting of the party was convened on 23 October at which he was unanimously elected Conservative leader. He immediately went to the palace and was appointed prime minister, and the following day named his cabinet, sometimes referred to as the 'second eleven', since Chamberlain and other senior Conservative supporters of the coalition refused to serve under him. Two days later parliament was dissolved, and a general election was called for 15 November. Facing divided opposition at the polls, the Conservatives won their first solo election victory since 1900, with a comfortable majority of 77 over all other parties.

Bonar Law's first major task was to pilot the Irish treaty through parliament, which was successfully accomplished by early December 1922. At the same time his government had to face an assault on its conduct of foreign policy, launched by disgruntled Conservative coalitionists. This, too, was dealt with quickly and effectively. His first parliamentary session was thus a success. The second session, in the new year, was more problematic. Negotiations with the French over German war reparations saw him attempt, unsuccessfully, to persuade the French to take a less aggressive stance. Meetings with the French government in Paris in late December and early January proved frustrating, and at one stage he wanted to break off discussions. This abrupt course of action was averted, but the French occupation of the Ruhr on 11 January marked an important breach in Anglo-French relations. Further foreign affairs complications arose in terms of Anglo-Turkish relations, which had been poor since the Chanak crisis. He was determined to avoid war, and advocated arbitration by the League of Nations. In late January 1923 a conference at Lausanne, held under the aegis of the league, ended with the Turks refusing to sign a proposed Anglo-Turkish treaty dealing with all grievances. But Bonar Law had achieved his main objective of defusing a potential conflict, and within five months the Turks signed a slightly modified treaty.

Britain's war debt to the United States represented Bonar Law's most awkward problem. His view was that Britain's debt had to be considered in relation to debts owed to Britain by other allied powers, especially France, and that this in turn was connected to the issue of German reparations. The United States, however, had been pressing for action on the British debt alone since the summer of 1922, and in January 1923 Bonar Law's chancellor, Stanley Baldwin, sailed to America to discuss a settlement. Initially the loans to Britain had been made at an interest rate of 5 per cent, which was generally agreed to be too high. Bonar Law wished to get this reduced to 2.5 per cent, but the best American offer was for 3 per cent, rising to 3.5 per cent after ten years. In money terms the difference was between annual repayments of £25 million and £36 million, rising to £40 million. Baldwin, acting on his own initiative, accepted the American offer and announced to the British press that they were the best terms available. Bonar Law was appalled, and on 30 January announced at cabinet that he would resign rather than accept the settlement. In cabinet he was isolated, with only one minister supporting his position. At a further meeting of the cabinet on 31 January, with Bonar Law absent, all but one again supported the settlement negotiated by Baldwin. However, the cabinet also sent a deputation to Bonar Law to ask him to reconsider his resignation threat. Bonar Law agreed, for he also knew that his resignation, as the only figure who enjoyed the full confidence of the Conservative Party, would have been a disaster for the government and the party. He therefore swallowed his objections and agreed to the terms of the American settlement.

The American settlement meant a 4 per cent increase in public expenditure at a time when a priority of the Conservatives' core constituency was a reduction in expenditure and taxes. In this respect it threatened to undermine a key raison d'être of Bonar Law's government. In mid-January 1923, addressing a TUC deputation on unemployment, a growing problem following the downturn of 1921, he stressed that the government's priority was to balance the budget and return the country to ‘normal’ economic conditions through fiscal and monetary orthodoxy. Specifically he pointed to conditions in Germany as an example of the problems that followed on from high levels of government expenditure and borrowing. In the post-war fiscal and economic climate, with its pressing implications for the extended number of taxpayers and small savers created by wartime finance, he saw retrenchment and a reduced role for government as essential to his government's survival. In other respects the government faced few problems. Bonar Law's inexperienced team began to find their feet in office, and some of his cabinet, notably Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, made strong impressions in parliament and in their departments. The prospects for Bonar Law's regime thus looked healthy when parliament reassembled on 10 April.

Bonar Law's own health was not as good as his government's. During the general election campaign of November 1922 he had suffered from pains in his throat, which had rendered him unable to speak at one point. The problem seemed to pass, but by early April 1923 his throat was bothering him again, and in the first debates of the new parliamentary session his speeches were occasionally inaudible. On the advice of his doctor, Sir Thomas Horder, he took a month's break from work, leaving Lord Curzon to preside over the cabinet and Baldwin to lead in the Commons. But the break saw a deterioration in his condition. On arrival at Aix les Bains after a cruise he met his old friend Rudyard Kipling, who was so alarmed by his appearance that he telephoned Beaverbrook, who in turn contacted Horder. Horder examined Bonar Law in Paris on 17 May, diagnosed him to be suffering from an incurable cancer of the throat, and gave him six months to live. It seems likely that Bonar Law's one vice, tobacco, had caught up with him.

Resignation and death

Bonar Law returned to London on 19 May and immediately wrote to the king to tender his resignation—he was already too unwell to visit the palace in person, and could barely speak. In France Bonar Law had been agitated by the question of who was to succeed him, but had been informed that this decision lay with the king and that he need not offer advice. However, a memorandum ostensibly representing his views was presented to the king, which favoured Stanley Baldwin and presented Curzon, the only other candidate, in an unfavourable light. This memorandum was in fact written by Bonar Law's parliamentary secretary, J. C. C. Davidson, and did not, it seems, express Bonar Law's personal views with total accuracy. Nevertheless, if Bonar Law had not had profound political and personal reservations about Curzon he could easily have intervened more strongly on the foreign secretary's behalf, and, likewise, could have placed more obstacles in Baldwin's path.

Following his departure from office Bonar Law took no further active part in politics—he did not resign his seat, but neither did he attend the Commons. He went to Brighton for specialist treatment and paid a brief visit to Le Touquet, where he felt well enough to play golf. But this rally was short-lived, and through September his condition deteriorated. He was nursed during his final weeks by his daughter Isabel, and Beaverbrook virtually abandoned business and politics to spend time with his friend. After a further round of treatment in Brighton, Bonar Law returned to his London home, 24 Onslow Gardens, where he died in the early hours of 30 October 1923. In his will he expressed a wish to be buried beside his wife in the cemetery at Helensburgh. But the dean and chapter of Westminster offered to hold his funeral in the abbey, and the cabinet too favoured an abbey ceremony. Bonar Law's family thus set aside his wishes and agreed to a state occasion, held on 5 November.

Reputation and assessment

Bonar Law's burial in Westminster Abbey prompted his old adversary Asquith to remark that 'we have buried the Unknown Prime Minister by the side of the Unknown Soldier' (Blake, 531), an uncomplimentary remark that has served as Bonar Law's epitaph. Given that Bonar Law was prime minister for only 209 days, the shortest tenure of any prime minister since Viscount Goderich, this seems at first glance not unjustified. But Bonar Law's political importance cannot be measured solely by the length of his period in the highest office. Had it not been for the accident of his fatal illness he could have served a full term and more in the premiership. Moreover, his period as leader of the Conservative Party, twelve years, places him behind only Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, and Stanley Baldwin in the twentieth century in terms of political longevity.

The achievement of which Bonar Law was most proud, and which has proved to be his most lasting legacy, was keeping Ulster in the United Kingdom. This, however, was hardly an unmixed blessing for subsequent generations of politicians, or indeed for the populations of mainland Britain and Ulster itself. Of course he was not solely responsible for the partition of Ireland and the difficulties which it subsequently caused, but his insistence that it was the only acceptable solution narrowed the range of options available to policy makers including himself. Apart from the Irish treaty there are no major pieces of legislation which can be attributed to his influence.

It was as a party leader, rather than as a legislator, that Bonar Law achieved most. Here he was fortunate, in that he was rescued from obvious difficulties and personal failings by the First World War. But when placed in a position of strength by wartime developments he made the most of his and his party's opportunities, and helped reconstruct the Conservatives as a viable governing party. He was by no means a charismatic leader, but in the post-1918 period, especially in 1922, his lack of charisma was a positive asset. His reputation for straightforwardness, his modest lifestyle, and his no-nonsense manner of debate were welcomed by the Conservative rank and file, who had had a surfeit of charisma in the shape of Lloyd George. The events of 1922 illustrated Bonar Law's ability to read and manage back-bench opinion, and underlined his devotion to the fortunes of his party. He was, above all else, a good party man.

Part of Bonar Law's success as leader was that he was genuinely representative of a new kind of Conservative Party. He was the first leader of the Conservatives not to be drawn from the ranks of the aristocracy (leaving aside the peculiar case of Disraeli, who spent his life imitating them), and he presided over a rapid urbanization of the party in terms of its social make-up, the geography of its support, and its policy priorities. The party he left was very different from the one that he had joined, and his own background enabled him to manage and indeed welcome this development. He was, in this respect, the first clearly modern leader of the Conservative Party.


  • R. Blake, The unknown prime minister: the life and times of Andrew Bonar Law (1955)
  • J. Turner, British politics and the Great War: coalition and conflict, 1915–1918 (1992)
  • J. Ramsden, The age of Balfour and Baldwin, 1902–1940 (1978)
  • C. Hazlehurst, Politicians at war, July 1914 to May 1915 (1971)
  • E. H. H. Green, The crisis of conservatism: the politics, economics and ideology of the Conservative Party, 1880–1914 (1995)
  • K. O. Morgan, Consensus and disunity: the Lloyd George coalition government, 1918–1922 (1979)
  • BL, Balfour MSS
  • Parl. Arch., Bonar Law papers


  • Parl. Arch., corresp. and papers
  • BL, corresp. with Sir W. J. Ashley, Add. MS 42256
  • BL, corresp. with Arthur James Balfour, Add. MSS 49693 passim
  • BL, corresp. with Lord Long, Add. MS 62404
  • BL, corresp. with Lord Northcliffe, Add. MS 62158
  • BLPES, corresp. with Tariff Commission
  • Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Viscount Addison
  • Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Herbert Asquith
  • Bodl. Oxf., letters to H. A. Gwynne
  • Bodl. Oxf., letters to Lord Selborne
  • CAC Cam., letters to Sir H. Page Croft
  • Glos. RO, corresp. with Sir Michael Hicks Beach
  • L. Cong., letters to Moreton Frewen
  • Lpool RO, corresp. with Lord Derby
  • Mitchell L., Glas., Glasgow City Archives, letters to Arthur Jamieson
  • NA Scot., Steel-Maitland MSS
  • NL Aus., corresp. with Viscount Novar
  • Parl. Arch., corresp. with Lord Beaverbrook
  • Parl. Arch., letters to R. D. Blumenfeld
  • Parl. Arch., corresp. with David Lloyd George
  • Parl. Arch., letters to Herbert Samuel
  • Parl. Arch., corresp. with John St Loe Strachey
  • TNA: PRO, corresp. with Lord Kitchener, PRO 30/57; WO 159
  • U. Birm. L., Austen Chamberlain MSS
  • U. Newcastle, Robinson L., corresp. with Walter Runciman
  • University of New Brunswick Library, letters to Sir Robert Borden and others
  • University of Sheffield Library, corresp. with W. A. S. Henins
  • Wilts. & Swindon HC, corresp. with Viscount Long


  • BFINA, documentary footage
  • BFINA, news footage
  • BFINA, propaganda footage (Hepworth Manufacturing Company)
  • Thorn-EMI archive, catalogue reference 01007


  • M. A. Cohen, pencil drawing, 1890, NPG
  • J. Guthrie, group portrait, oils, 1919–1921, Scot. NPG [see illus.]
  • M. Beerbohm, caricature, 1923 (The Glasgow School), Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, New York
  • W. Stoneman, photograph, 1923, NPG
  • J. B. Anderson, oils, Conservative Club, Glasgow
  • F. Carruthers, caricature, NPG
  • J. Guthrie and J. B. Anderson, oils, Constitutional Club, London
  • R. de L'Hôpital, oils, Carlton Club, London
  • W. Orpen, group portrait, oils (A peace conference at the Quai D'Orsay), IWM
  • W. Orpen, group portrait, oils (The signing of the peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, 28 June 1919), IWM
  • B. Partridge, pen-and-ink caricature, NPG; repro. in Punch (18 Sept 1912)
  • B. Partridge, pen-and-ink caricature, NPG; repro. in Punch (9 Feb 1921)
  • Spy [L. Ward], chromolithograph, NPG; repro. in VF (2 March 1905)
  • Strickland, chromolithograph caricature, NPG; repro. in VF (10 April 1912)

Wealth at Death

£35,736 2s.: confirmation, 11 Dec 1923, CCI

£24,223 13s. 3d.: eik additional estate, 12 June 1924, CCI

Parliamentary Archives of the United Kingdom