Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax

British politician (1881-1959)

Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax (16 April 188123 December 1959), known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and as The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was a British Conservative politician. He is usually considered as one of the architects of appeasement before World War II. During the period, he held several ministerial posts in the cabinet, including Foreign Secretary at the time of the Munich crisis in 1938. He later was dismissed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1940 when he expressed support for a negotiated settlement with Nazi Germany, although he was then appointed British Ambassador to the United States. He succeeded Lord Reading as Viceroy of India in April 1926, a post he held until 1931. In this role he held negotiations on constitutional reforms to the British Raj with the Indian National Congress under Mohandas Gandhi.

Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax

Quotes edit

Backbench MP edit

  • Instead of deluding public opinion with a notion that a sufficient application of force will provide a remedy, a wiser course would be to set about taking such steps as may be the means of recovering that consent without which society in Ireland cannot exist...[an offer should be made to the Irish] conceived on the most generous lines.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Irish insurgency after the Great War, quoted in Lord Birkenhead, Halifax (1965), pp. 121-122

Viceroy of India edit

  • In the name of Indian national life, in the name of religion, I appeal to all in each of the two countries who hold position...let them begin each in their own community to work untiringly towards this end: boldly to repudiate feelings of hatred and intolerance, actively to condemn and suppress acts of violence and aggression, earnestly to strive to exorcise suspicions...I appeal in the name of national life because communal tension is eating into it as a canker...I appeal in the name of religion because I can appeal to nothing nobler, and because religion is the language of the soul, and it is a change of soul that India needs today.
    • Speech as Viceroy of India (1926), quoted in Birkenhead, Halifax (1965), pp. 223-234
  • Though I am, as you know, a pacifist by nature, I am not disposed to go to all lengths to meet people who seem to be behaving with utter unreason.
  • I am authorized on behalf of His Majesty's Government to state clearly that in their judgment it is implicit in the declaration of 1917 that the natural issue of India's constitutional progress, as there contemplated, is the attainment of Dominion status.
    • Statement in a Gazette of India Extraordinary (31 October 1929), quoted in The Times (1 November 1929), p. 16
  • [It is] a question of personal appeal and conviction, rather than any argument. The cards I fancy are sympathy, understanding of his hopes, suspicions and disappointments, but above all, striving to convey to him, through what one says, a real echo of the sincerity that pervaded your doings in London.
    • Letter (16 February 1931), quoted in Birkenhead, Halifax (1965), p. 296

Lord Privy Seal edit

  • [The Hoare-Laval proposals] were not so frightfully different from those put forward by the Committee of Five [of the League of Nations]. But the latter were of respectable parentage: and the Paris ones were too much like the off-the-stage arrangements of nineteenth-century diplomacy.
    • In 1935. Quoted in Keith Feiling, A Life of Neville Chamberlain (1970), p. 275

Lord President of the Council edit

  • Nationalism and Racialism is a powerful force but I can't feel that it's either unnatural or immoral! I cannot myself doubt that these fellows are genuine haters of Communism, etc.! And I daresay if we were in their position we might feel the same!
    • Letter to Stanley Baldwin (15 November 1937), quoted in Andrew Roberts ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (1997), p. 282
  • After a day in Berlin I was taken off to Berchtesgaden which we reached after a night in the special train, and were driven by what I assumed to be storm-troopers straight up to Hitler's chalet. Snow was on the ground and a path had been swept up to the steep steps to the house. As I looked out of the car window, on eye level, I saw in the middle of this swept path a pair of black trousered legs, finishing up in silk socks and pumps. I assumed this was a footman who had come down to help me out of the car and up the steps, and was proceeding in leisurely fashion to get myself out of the car when I heard Von Neurath or somebody throwing a hoarse whisper at my ear of ‘Der Führer, der Führer’; and it then dawned upon me that the legs were not the legs of a footman, but of Hitler.
    • Diary entry (19 November 1937), quoted in Lord Halifax, Fulness of Days (1957), p. 185
  • Hitler invited me to begin our discussion, which I did by thanking him for giving me this opportunity. I hoped it might be the means of creating better understanding between our two countries. The feeling of His Majesty's Government was that it ought to be within our power, if we could once come to a fairly complete appreciation of each other's position, and if we were both prepared to work together for the cause of peace, to make a large contribution to it. Although there was much in the Nazi system that profoundly offended British opinion, I was not blind to what he (Hitler) had done for Germany, and to the achievement from his point of view of keeping Communism out of his country.
    • Diary entry (19 November 1937), quoted in Lord Halifax, Fulness of Days (1957), p. 185
  • He [Hitler] did not challenge this and said that formal agreement between the four Powers [Britain, France, Germany and Italy] might not be very difficult to achieve. It would not, however, be worth much unless it took account of realities, even if unpleasant. Germany had had to recognise such a reality in the shape of Poland; and we all had to recognise such a reality in acknowledging Germany to be a great Power; we had to get away from the Versailles mentality and recognise that the world could never remain in statu quo. To this I replied that nobody wished to treat Germany as anything but a great Power, and that nobody in their senses supposed the world could stay as it was for ever. The whole point was how changes were to be brought about. This led him to say that there were two, and only two, alternatives: the free play of forces that meant war; and settlement by reason. The world had had experience of the first: was it able to prefer the second?
    • Diary entry (19 November 1937), quoted in Lord Halifax, Fulness of Days (1957), pp. 185-186
  • He [Hitler] then asked me what other problems there were between us... I replied that British opinion would be glad to know what might be his present attitude to the League of Nations and to Disarmament. There were no doubt other questions arising out of the Versailles settlement which were capable of causing trouble if they were unwisely handled:—Danzig, Austria, Czechoslovakia. On all these matters we were not necessarily concerned to stand for the status quo as of to-day, but we were very much concerned to secure the avoidance of such treatment of them as would be likely to cause trouble. If reasonable settlement could be reached with the free assent of those primarily concerned, we certainly had no desire to block them.
    • Diary entry (19 November 1937), quoted in Lord Halifax, Fulness of Days (1957), pp. 186-187
  • Hitler was on the whole quiet and restrained, except now and again when he got excited; over Russia or the Press. I can quite see why he is a popular speaker; very much alive, eyes, which I was surprised were blue, moving about all the time, points in the argument reinforced by sharp gestures of the hands. And the play of emotion—sardonic humour, scorn, something almost wistful—is rapid.
    • Diary entry (19 November 1937), quoted in Lord Halifax, Fulness of Days (1957), pp. 188
  • One had a feeling all the time that we had a totally different set of values and were speaking in a different language. It was not only the difference between a totalitarian and democratic state. He gave me the impression of feeling that, whilst he had attained power only after a hard struggle with present-day realities, the British Government was still living comfortably in a world of its own making, a fairy-land of strange, if respectable, illusions. It clung to shibboleths—‘collective security,’ ‘general settlement,’ ‘disarmament,’ ‘non-aggression pacts’—which offered no practical prospect of a solution of Europe's difficulties. He regards the whole conception embodied in a League of States equal in their rights of sovereignty as unreal, based on no foundation of fact; and consequently does not believe that discussions between large numbers of nations, with varying interests and of quite unequal value, can lead anywhere. Hence his preference for dealing with particular problems in isolation. With this goes the distrust of the democratic method, to him inefficient, blundering, paralysed by its love of talk, and totally unsuited to the rough world, constantly changing, in which we had to live.
    • Diary entry (19 November 1937), quoted in Lord Halifax, Fulness of Days (1957), pp. 189

Foreign Secretary edit

  • Nothing was more likely to aggravate the difficulties of the present situation than any suggestions that our ultimate objective was to unite France, Italy and ourselves against Germany.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet (15 March 1938), quoted in Correlli Barnett, The Collapse of British Power (1972), p. 450
  • [W]e are all alike determined to throw all our weight on the side of securing world peace through respect for law based on just settlements. We have no use for a world society in which law would be expected to be the obedient handmaid of lawless force; and we are all resolved to preserve British rights and liberties against attack, from whatever quarter within or without the State these may come.
  • [A] great mistake would be made abroad if it was ever thought that our domestic controversies upon the day-to-day conduct of foreign policy would in the least degree affect the primary instinct of our people to stand solidly together in any real emergency. Both our history and our character had given us a sense of community which, while enabling us to face facts and make peaceful changes, protected us from being revolutionary.
    • Speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (21 June 1938), quoted in The Times (22 June 1938), p. 18
  • Herr Hitler was possibly or even probably mad.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet (12 September 1938), quoted in Correlli Barnett, The Collapse of British Power (1972), p. 521
  • [O]ne of the principal lessons of these events is that the diplomacy of any nation can only be commensurate with its strength, and that if we desire this country to exercise its full influence in world affairs, the first thing that we have to do is to ensure that it is in all ways fully and rapidly equipped to do so.
  • In a time of crisis, with grave questions demanding urgent answer at every moment, no body of men would dare claim to be judged infallible. There was indeed no clear way, but almost always a hideous choice of evils. I can only know, for myself, that my mind will be at rest for having taken no decision inconsistent with what on all the facts I felt right.
  • A year ago we had undertaken no specific commitments on the Continent of Europe, beyond those which had then existed. ... To-day we are bound by new agreements for mutual defence with Poland and Turkey; we have guaranteed assistance to Greece and Rumania against aggression. ... We know that, if the security and independence of other countries are to disappear, our own security and our own independence will be gravely threatened. We know that if international law and order is to be preserved, we must be prepared to fight in its defence.
    • Speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (29 June 1939), quoted in The Times (30 June 1939), p. 9
  • What is also now fully and universally accepted in this country, but what may not even yet be as well understood elsewhere, is that, in the event of further aggression, we are resolved to use at once the whole of our strength in fulfilment of our pledges to resist it.
    • Speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (29 June 1939), quoted in The Times (30 June 1939), p. 9
  • At this moment the doctrine of force bars the way to settlement and fills the world with envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. But if the doctrine of force were once abandoned, so that the fear of war that stalks the world was lifted, all outstanding questions would become easier to solve.
    • Speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (29 June 1939), quoted in The Times (30 June 1939), p. 9
  • The threat of military force is holding the world to ransom, and our immediate task is...to resist aggression.
    • Speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (29 June 1939), quoted in The Times (30 June 1939), p. 9
  • The racial doctrine, as interpreted in the Nazi creed, may be, and in my view is, sheer primitive nonsense; and we are no more prepared to admit German superiority of race than we are concerned to assert our own. ... when this doctrine is invoked in justification of the oppression of other races it becomes a crime against humanity.
    • Speech to the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford (27 February 1940), quoted in The Times (28 February 1940), p. 10
  • Not only does it deny the corporate claim to liberty of men and women organized in national societies, but it refuses the much more fundamental claim of men and women to the free expression of human personality, which rests upon the eternal value of every human soul. True pride of race may be tested by the behaviour of its possessors towards their own fellow citizens and towards others. It will forbid conduct to individuals of which they should be ashamed in their private lives. It is thus evidently something far removed from the ideal of a race which by the German philosophy of to-day is called to stamp out the civilization of another. Between these two conceptions there is a great gulf fixed. ... Until these false creeds are abjured, and replaced by a wider toleration, they must continue to excite resistance. The future of humanity must not be left in the hands of those who would imprison and enslave it.
    • Speech to the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford (27 February 1940), quoted in The Times (28 February 1940), p. 10
  • [T]he broad record of the British race stands to be judged on facts that are incontestable. It is the fact that during the nineteenth century, when the power of this country was unchallenged, there was no nation in Europe that felt for that reason insecure, or that did not recognize our power to be an instrument of peace. The Pax Britannica has been no empty or self-righteous boast of purpose. It is the fact too that in every corner of the world where men of British race have established influence, there by immutable law of nature you find established the seed and plant of liberty. It is the trail by which is marked their progress, interpreted to all by the standards of good faith, respect for law, and equal justice. Most truly, therefore, of our people was it said: “Their country's cause is the high cause of freedom and honour. That fairest earthly fame, the fame of freedom, is inseparable from the names of Albion, Britain, England.”
    • Speech in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford (27 February 1940), quoted in The Times (28 February 1940), p. 10
  • My message to you to-day...is to be so proud of the race to which you belong that you will be as jealous of its honour as you are of its safety, and that you will fight for both with equal determination. The struggle will be arduous, it may be long, and it will certainly demand of our nation that it should withhold nothing that may contribute to our strength.
    • Speech in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford (27 February 1940), quoted in The Times (28 February 1940), p. 10
  • [W]e had to face the fact that it was not so much now a question of imposing a complete defeat on Germany but of safeguarding the independence of our own Empire and if possible that of France.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet (26 May 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (1997), p. 216
  • [I]f he [Mussolini] would use his influence [on Hitler] to get reasonable terms which did not menace our independence and offered a prospect of a just and durable settlement of Europe we would try and meet his own claims. ... If the terms were impossible we could always reject them.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet (26 May 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (1997), pp. 216–217
  • [I]f we got to the point of discussing the terms of a general settlement and found that we could obtain terms which did not postulate the destruction of our independence, we should be foolish if we did not accept them.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet (26 May 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (1997), p. 218
  • [Churchill's plan] meant that the future of the country turned on whether the enemy's bombs happened to hit our aircraft factories. ... he was prepared to take that risk if our independence was at stake; but if it was not at stake he would think it right to accept an offer which would save the country from avoidable disaster.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet (27 May 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (1997), p. 220
  • [W]e should be prepared to say that we were prepared to fight to the death for our independence, but that, provided this could be secured, there were certain concessions that we were prepared to make to Italy.
    • Remarks to the War Cabinet (28 May 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (1997), p. 224
  • If only we could find out for certain where Hitler and Mussolini are meeting tomorrow, and get one well-placed bomb, then the world might really take on a different appearance.
    • Diary (17 June 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (1997), p. 237
  • Bad faith, cruelty, crime become right by the fact that it is he, Hitler, who ordains them. That is the fundamental challenge of anti-Christ; which it is our duty as Christians to fight with all our power. The peoples of the British Commonwealth, along with all those who love truth and justice and freedom, will never accept this new world of Hitler's. Free men, not slaves; free nations, not German vassals; a community of nations, freely cooperating for the good of all—these are the pillars of the new and better order that the British people wish to see.
    • Broadcast (22 July 1940), quoted in The Times (23 July 1940), p. 5
  • Hitler may plant the swastika where he will, but unless he can sap the strength of Britain the foundations of his Empire are built on sand. In their hearts the peoples that he has beaten down curse him and pray that his attacks may be broken on the defences of our island fortress. They long for the day when we shall sally forth and return blow for blow. We shall assuredly not disappoint them. Then will come the day of final reckoning when Hitler's mad plans for Europe will be shattered by the unconquerable passion of man for freedom.
    • Broadcast (22 July 1940), quoted in The Times (23 July 1940), p. 5

Ambassador to the United States edit

  • As we begin to look beyond the war to the re-ordering of the world which must follow, we see three great Powers, the United States, Russia, and China. ... In the company of these Titans Britain, apart from the rest of the Commonwealth and Empire, could hardly claim equal partnership. ... If, in the future, Britain is to play her part without assuming burdens greater than she can support she must have with her in peace the same strength that has sustained her in this war. Not Great Britain only, but the British Commonwealth and Empire must be the fourth Power in that group upon which, under Providence, the peace of the world will henceforth depend.
    • Speech to centenary dinner of the Toronto Board of Trade (24 January 1944), quoted in The Times (25 January 1944), p. 3

Later life edit

  • The advent of Hitler to power in 1933 had coincided with a high tide of wholly irrational pacifist sentiment in Britain, which caused profound damage both at home and abroad. At home it immensely aggravated the difficulty, great in any case it was bound to be, of bringing the British people to appreciate and face up to the new situation which Hitler was creating: abroad it doubtless served to tempt him and others to suppose that in shaping their policies this country need not be too seriously regarded.
    • Fulness of Days (1957), p. 181
  • One such interlude early in June 1940 is for ever graven into my memory. It was just after the fall of France, an event which at the time it happened seemed something unbelievable as to be almost surely unreal, and if not unreal then quite immeasurably catastrophic. Dorothy and I had spent a lovely summer evening walking over the Wolds, and on our way home sat in the sun for half an hour at a point looking across the plain of York. All the landscape of the nearer foreground was familiar—its sights, its sounds, its smells; hardly a field that did not call up some half-forgotten bit of association; the red-roofed village and nearby hamlets, gathered as it were for company round the old greystone church, where men and women like ourselves, now long dead and gone, had once knelt in worship and prayer. Here in Yorkshire was a true fragment of the undying England, like the White Cliffs of Dover, or any other part of our land that Englishmen have loved. Then the question came, is it possible that the Prussian jackboot will force its way into this countryside to tread and trample over it at will? The very thought seemed an insult and an outrage; much as if anyone were to be condemned to watch his mother, wife or daughter being raped.
    • Fulness of Days (1957), p. 215

Attributed edit

  • Common sense and not bravado would dictate the British Government's policy.
    • Remark to Rab Butler contained in the Björn Prytz telegram (17 June 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (Phoenix, 1997), p. 232

Quotes about Halifax edit

  • [I]f ever the day comes when the party which I lead ceases to attract to itself men of the calibre of Edward Wood, then I have finished with my party.
  • I do not doubt that his viceroyalty was the greatest episode in a varied and distinguished career, and that the comprehending and enlightened policy he pursued, culminating in his Pact with Gandhi, was both realistic and right.
  • In June [1931] I attended a meeting in the House of Commons of the India Committee, normally composed of those Conservative back-benchers with a special interest in Indian affairs. It was a sign of the times that most of the party had turned up. Irwin, gaunt and sombre, was flanked by Winterton, Lloyd and Churchill. His replies to their questions were agile and tinged with irony. But his speech, apparently unprepared and certainly unpolished, seemed disappointing, even disillusioning. He asked us to keep the account private, for fear of embarrassing Lord Willingdon, who was to be his successor as Viceroy. Despite this, the Daily Telegraph came out next morning with striking headlines. The speech in its entirety had, however, been even more striking. It began with references to the growth of nationalism and to the fact, as he put it, that owing to the Russo-Japanese war and the looseness of Western women as depicted in films, our prestige in the East was gone. An incredulous gasp greeted this sacrilege.
  • On 16th March, 1939, the day after Czechoslovakia fell to pieces and Hitler occupied Prague, I lunched at No. 10 with Neville Chamberlain and Edward Halifax. The Prime Minister said with resignation, but with our solemn approval, "I have decided that I cannot trust the Nazi leaders again." Next day he made a speech to the Birmingham Unionist Association which I described to his P.P.S., Alec Douglas-Home, as being more like an oration by the younger Pitt. Halifax said later that it was he who had insisted on the need for this fighting speech as the prelude to a revolution in foreign policy. I am sure that this was true.
  • I reflected on Halifax's extraordinary character; his high principles, his engaging charm and grand manner – his power to frighten people into fits – me sometimes – his snobbishness – his eel-like qualities and, above all, his sublime treachery which is never deliberate, and, always to him, a necessity dictated by a situation. Means are nothing to him, only ends. He is insinuating, but unlovable.
    • Henry Channon, diary entry (3 June 1940), quoted in Robert Rhodes James (ed.), Chips: The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon (1967), pp. 255–256
  • Edward [Halifax] seemed to suggest that Winston was a handicap to the Conservative Party. At last I turned on him. "I don't know what you are getting at," I said rather hotly. "If the country had depended on you we might have lost the war." Edward was furious and demanded an apology. Later he talked to Winston, saying I ought to apologize. Winston replied he hoped I'd do nothing of the sort. You see, Charles, Edward Halifax has been spoilt. Baldwin was largely responsible.
    • Clementine Churchill in conversation with Lord Moran (24 July 1953), quoted in Lord Moran, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940-1965 (1966; 1968), p. 467
  • Halifax's virtues have done more harm in the world than the vices of hundreds of other people. And yet when I meet him, I can't help having friendly talk.
    • Winston Churchill in conversation with Lord Moran (7 December 1947), quoted in Lord Moran, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940-1965 (1966; 1968), p. 351
  • To history, until yesterday, Halifax was the arch-appeaser. This, it is now recognised, was a mistake. His rôle, however, was complicated. In these pages he is not the man who stopped the rot, but the embodiment of Conservative wisdom who decided that Hitler must be obstructed because Labour could not otherwise be resisted.
    • Maurice Cowling, The Impact of Hitler. British Politics and British Policy, 1933–1940 (1975), p. 9
  • In the course of the great Viceroy's interview, he was told by Hitler that the proper way to deal with unrest in India was to shoot first Gandhi and then the leaders of the Congress. Halifax's sweet and Christian nature must have recoiled from this sort of barbarism; but he was too courteous to show his disgust. Unhappily, in the course of this long discussion, he did not reject with sufficient force Hitler's new thesis. This was that changes of territory and shifts of power in a changing world could come about only by one of two methods—either by war or by what he called the "higher reason"... Halifax should have rejected this argument with vigour. On the contrary, he referred to possible modifications which might come in due course over Danzig, Czechoslovakia, and Austria. All that England was interested in was to see that these changes should come about by peaceful evolution. This doctrine of peaceful evolution seemed dangerously near that of the higher reason. The Halifax visit did no good, and a great deal of potential harm.
  • Edward Halifax was a man of extraordinary charm, strong religious convictions, and long experience of public affairs... [N]either Halifax nor Chamberlain had any real experience or knowledge of foreign affairs. If Chamberlain approached them from a somewhat provincial point of view and believed almost to the end in the possibility of a "business deal" with Hitler and Ribbentrop, Halifax, as a great gentleman and aristocrat, found it quite impossible to understand the minds of such men. He could hardly bring himself to accept that statesmen who were in charge of a great country could be so absolutely devoid of any sense of truth or honour.
  • These men are not made of the same stuff as the Francis Drakes and the other magnificent adventurers who created the empire. These, after all, are the tired sons of a long line of rich men, and they will lose their empire.
  • Chamberlain entered 10 Downing Street determined to reshape British foreign policy in order to confront the mounting threats to European peace. In January 1938 he managed to move Sir Robert Vansittart, the fiercely anti-Hitler permanent undersecretary at the Foreign Office, into a high-sounding but innocuous post as the government’s chief diplomatic advisor. Chamberlain replaced him with the more pliant Sir Alexander Cadogan. The following month, Chamberlain’s highly strung foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, resigned in irritation at the prime minister’s personal diplomacy. His successor was Lord Halifax, a tall, lugubrious Tory peer, whose basic instinct—whether as Viceroy of India dealing with Gandhi or as foreign secretary facing the dictators— was to seek a peaceful compromise. Chamberlain would later discover that Halifax had a will of his own, but initially they formed an effective team. “I give thanks for a steady unruffled Foreign Secretary who never causes me any worry,” the prime minister wrote privately that spring. After securing a rapprochement with Italy in April 1938, Chamberlain hoped to move on to an agreement with Germany, trading territorial concessions in Europe and colonial Africa for firm restrictions on the growth of German military power. This was all part of what he and his colleagues called the “appeasement” or pacification of Europe. And after the war scare of May 1938, it was clear that the Sudeten problem had to be resolved before further progress could be made. Accordingly the British government emerged from France’s shadow as would-be mediator.
    • David Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings that Changed the Twentieth Century (2007), p. 43
  • It is also clear that, left to themselves, Chamberlain’s political colleagues would eventually have undermined his summitry. To bypass Cabinet critics he moved key discussions into an inner circle, and his dramatic flight to Berchtesgaden silenced the skeptics. But his weakness there as a negotiator—conceding Sudeten secession on the spot—disconcerted many in the Cabinet. Even his inner circle warned that the next meeting must involve concessions by Hitler as well and they kept him under pressure throughout the Godesberg meeting. The revolt led by Halifax after Chamberlain returned is not surprising when one remembers that, as early as September 4, the foreign secretary had been inclined to issue a warning to Hitler. What does remain puzzling is Halifax’s failure to keep reasserting himself during the rest of the crisis. Having seen what happened when he was twice excluded from summitry, he might have been expected to claim a seat on the plane to Munich. But perhaps the euphoria in the Commons on September 28 carried all before it, catapulting Chamberlain back to the dominant position he enjoyed on the eve of Berchtesgaden.
    • David Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings that Changed the Twentieth Century (2007), p. 43
  • Lord Halifax in his personal qualities more closely resembles Sir Edward Grey than any of his predecessors as Foreign Secretary. Like him he is impressive in presence and manner; universally respected, even reverenced; and he has a deep and sincere ethical and religious foundation for his character. Like him, too, he is quite obviously in politics under the impulse of a sense of duty and not of personal ambition; he would sooner live the life of a country gentleman. In India he showed an insight into the aspirations of another race and constructive qualities of a rare order; and in his relations with Mr. Gandhi he was able to find in a similarity of religious temper a bridge for the wide gulf between different civilisations and creeds... Those who hesitate about his suitability for the office of Prime Minister at a time like the present do so because they doubt whether his personal force is sufficient, whether he has a tough enough fibre in his will. The general force of his personality is less than that of Grey, and while he shares all the same personal qualities they are most of them on a somewhat lesser scale; and for a particular objective he has a less concentrated strength than Mr. Chamberlain. Partly, however, for this very reason he is less compromised by his association with Mr. Chamberlain's earlier policy and less handicapped in any attempt to secure the co-operation of the Left.
  • Irwin was a friend of many years' standing whose serene career I had always admired. His striking personality, easy and distinguished manners, human and humane outlook on life, had, since his Oxford days, marked him out for great positions. Essentially a peacemaker, it was his mission as Viceroy to humanise the Government of India after Reading's chapter of rigid ceremony and cautious legalism. It was typical of him that almost his first word to his military secretary had been "we are in India to keep our tempers."
  • Irwin possessed the qualities that were needed for a reconciliator. Alone of the Viceroys who had dealings with Gandhi, he saw the springs that gave the Mahatma his astounding power.
  • Halifax was Eden's obvious successor [as Foreign Secretary]. Universally respected, and possessing many of the qualities that had established the reputation of his ancestor, Lord Grey, and his kinsman, Sir Edward Grey, he was pre-eminent among the Conservative Ministers for character and judgment. In India he had shown his wisdom in reconciling bitter differences. Communal troubles had become less acute under his mediating influence, Gandhi had become his personal friend. Might he not have the same success in Europe that he had won in Asia? In any case, his qualities were exactly those that Chamberlain needed for his considered and concentrated programme of appeasement.

External links edit