Joseph Chamberlain

British politician (1836-1914)

Joseph Chamberlain (8 July 18362 July 1914) was a British statesman of the Liberal party and then of the Liberal Unionist party.

Joseph Chamberlain
During the last 100 years, the House of Lords has never contributed one iota to popular liberties or popular freedom, or done anything to advance the common weal; but during that time it has protected every abuse and sheltered every privilege.



  • For my part I do not feel any great horror at the idea...of the possible establishment of a Republic in this country. (Loud cheers.) I am quite certain that sooner or later it will come. (Renewed cheers and ‘Bravo!’) But...there is really not any great practical difference between a free constitutional monarchy such as ours and a free republic.
    • Speech in Birmingham Town Hall at a meeting of sympathy with the French Third Republic (12 September 1870), quoted in J. L. Garvin, The Life of Joseph Chamberlain, Volume One: 1836–1885 (1932), p. 152
  • [T]he party will not again be reunited till a new programme has been elaborated which shall satisfy the just expectations of the representatives of labour, as well as conciliate the Nonconformists who have been driven into rebellion. It is impossible to say with certainty what will be the exact form of this protest against the ever-recurring assumption that the time has come when statesmen may rest from their labours and parties be at peace, but it must include some or all of the following ideas which have been exercising a growing attraction for political thinkers, and which are summed up in the sentence which may perhaps form the motto of the new party—Free Church, Free Land, Free Schools, and Free Labour.
    • ‘The Liberal Party and Its Leaders’, The Fortnightly Review, No. LXXXI, New Series (1 September 1873), pp. 293–294
  • Despite the perpetual adulation of ourselves which is always going on, and the constant recitals of our prosperity and of the progress we are making in science and general culture, we are compelled occasionally to turn aside from the contemplation of our virtues and intelligence and wealth, to recognise the fact that we have in our midst a vast population more ignorant than the barbarians whom we affect to despise, more brutal than the savages whom we profess to convert, more miserable than the most wretched in other countries to whom we attempt from time to time to carry succour and relief.
    • ‘The Next Page of the Liberal Programme’, The Fortnightly Review, No. XCIV, New Series (1 October 1874), quoted in John Morley (ed.), The Fortnightly Review, Vol. XVI, New Series (1 July – 1 December 1874), p. 414
  • All this disease is produced by filthy, ill-ventilated, uncomfortable homes; those homes, in their turn, drive the people to the public-houses and worse places. It is usual to say that these results are due to the ignorance of the people. That is true; but it would be almost truer to say that this ignorance in its turn is the result of the conditions amid which the people live. What folly it is to talk about the moral and intellectual elevation of the masses when the conditions of life are such as to render elevation impossible! What can the schoolmaster or the minister of religion do, when the influences of home undo all he does? We find bad air, polluted water, crowded and filthy homes, and ill-ventilated courts everywhere prevailing in the midst of our boasted wealth, luxury, and civilisation.
    • Speech in Birmingham (13 January 1875), quoted in Joseph Chamberlain, Mr. Chamberlain's Speeches, Volume I, ed. Charles W. Boyd (1914), p. 63


  • I say to Ireland what the Liberals or the Republicans of the North said to the Southern States of America—The union must be preserved. You cannot and shall not destroy it. Within these limits there is nothing which you may not ask and hope to obtain—equal laws, equal justice, equal opportunities, equal prosperity.
    • Speech to the National Liberal Federation in Liverpool (25 October 1881), quoted in The Times (26 October 1881), p. 11
  • I believe that sooner or later it will be found necessary to undertake some public works in Ireland... England is the only country in the world in which it has been found possible to leave public works entirely to private enterprise. State assistance in some form or another is every other country in Europe... I fully admit the difficulties and dangers of any such undertaking: the probability of jobbery and inefficiency; but as to the character and the poverty of the Irish people, I would at once appoint the strongest scientific and technical Commission it would be possible to obtain to report on certain broad classes of undertakings, especially on railways, reclamation, main drainage and harbours with a view to some considerable scheme of public works. I do not think the pecuniary risk would be so great as is generally supposed; and in any case I should regard the loss as a reasonable insurance against much greater evils.
    • Memorandum to the Cabinet (21 April 1882), quoted in Joseph Chamberlain, A Political Memoir, 1880–92, ed. C. H. D. Howard (1953), p. 55
  • Putting aside personal compliments what are the facts? A saving of 7 per thousand in the death-rate—2,800 lives per annum in the town. And as 5 people are ill for everyone who dies there must be a diminution of 14,000 cases of sickness, with all the loss of money, pain and grief they involve. Unless I can secure for the nation results similar to these which have followed the adoption of my policy in Birmingham it will have been a sorry exchange to give up the Town Council for the Cabinet.
    • Letter to John Morley (23 January 1883), quoted in J. L. Garvin, The Life of Joseph Chamberlain, Volume One: 1836–1885 (1932), p. 385
  • Lord Salisbury constitutes himself the spokesman of a class—of the class to which he himself belongs—who toil not, neither do they spin—whose fortunes, as in his case, have originated in grants made long ago, for such services as courtiers render to kings—and have since grown and increased while they have slept, by the levy of an unearned share on all that other men have done by toil and labour to add to the general wealth and prosperity of the country of which they form a part.
    • Speech in Birmingham (30 March 1883), quoted in H. W. Lucy (ed.), Speeches of the Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, M.P. (1885), p. 41
  • Hitherto, the well-to-do have governed this country for their own interest; and I will do them this credit—they have achieved their object. Now I trust the time is approaching for those who work and have not. My aim in life is to make life pleasanter for this great majority; I do not care if it becomes in the process less pleasant for the well-to-do minority. Take America, for instance. Cultured persons complain that the society there is vulgar; less agreeable to the delicate tastes of delicately trained minds. But it is infinitely preferable to the ordinary worker.
    • Remarks to Beatrice Webb as recorded in her diary (12 January 1884), quoted in Beatrice Webb, My Apprenticeship (1971), p. 141
  • During the last 100 years, the House of Lords has never contributed one iota to popular liberties or popular freedom, or done anything to advance the common weal; but during that time it has protected every abuse and sheltered every privilege.
    • Speech in Birmingham (4 August 1884), quoted in "The House of Lords: A handbook for Liberal speakers, writers and workers" (Liberal Publication Department, 1910), p. 96
  • One may confidently anticipate that the whole aspect of the agricultural question will undergo a change, and that...legislation will, under the pressure of the new force applied to it, be introduced for the purpose of bringing the land into the best use for the nation. Thus far the agricultural labourer has been regarded by the political economists as a mere machine—an instrument to be used for the creation of wealth, deposited in the hands of the few; not as a human being whose comfort, health, and home are to be considered, and who has a claim to such benefits as were conferred by the Factory Acts upon the labourers in towns. If his welfare cannot be sufficiently protected without the taxation of property, then property will be taxed. But it is needless now to attempt to define the measures that may be necessary for these ends. It is enough to indicate their general character. They sound the death-knell of the laissez-faire system.
    • ‘The Revolution of 1884’, The Fortnightly Review, No. CCXVII, New Series (1 January 1885), quoted in T. H. S. Escott (ed.), The Fortnightly Review, Vol. XXXVII, New Series (1 January – 1 June 1885), p. 7
  • The goal towards which the advance will probably be made at an accelerated pace, is that in the direction of which the legislation of the last quarter of a century has been tending—the intervention, in other words, of the State on behalf of the weak against the strong, in the interests of labour against capital, of want and suffering against luxury and wealth.
    • ‘The Revolution of 1884’, The Fortnightly Review, No. CCXVII, New Series (1 January 1885), quoted in T. H. S. Escott (ed.), The Fortnightly Review, Vol. XXXVII, New Series (1 January – 1 June 1885), p. 9
  • What is to be the nature of the domestic legislation of the future? (Hear, hear.) I cannot help thinking that it will be more directed to what are called social subjects than has hitherto been the case.—How to promote the greater happiness of the masses of the people (hear, hear), how to increase their enjoyment of life (cheers), that is the problem of the future; and just as there are politicians who would occupy all the world and leave nothing for the ambition of anybody else, so we have their counterpart at home in the men who, having already annexed everything that is worth having, expect everybody else to be content with the crumbs that fall from their table. If you will go back to the origin of things you will find that when our social arrangements first began to shape themselves every man was born into the world with natural rights, with a right to a share in the great inheritance of the community, with a right to a part of the land of his birth. (Cheers.) But all these rights have passed away. The common rights of ownership have disappeared. Some of them have been sold; some of them have been given away by people who had no right to dispose of them; some of them have been lost through apathy and ignorance; some have been stolen by fraud (cheers); and some have been acquired by violence. Private ownership has taken the place of these communal rights, and this system has become so interwoven with our habits and usages, it has been so sanctioned by law and protected by custom, that it might be very difficult and perhaps impossible to reverse it. But then, I ask, what ransom will property pay for the security which it enjoys? What substitute will it find for the natural rights which have ceased to be recognized?
    • Speech to the Birmingham Artisans' Association at Birmingham Town Hall (5 January 1885), quoted in ‘Mr. Chamberlain At Birmingham.’, The Times (6 January 1885), p. 7
  • When government was represented only by the authority of the Crown and the views of a particular class I can understand that it was the first duty of men who valued their freedom to restrict its authority and to limit its expenditure. But all that is changed. Now government is the organized expression of the wishes and the wants of the people, and under these circumstances let us cease to regard it with suspicion. Suspicion is the product of an older time, of circumstances which have long since disappeared. Now it is our business to extend its functions and to see in what way its operations can be usefully enlarged.
    • Speech to the Eighty Club, London (28 April 1885), quoted The Times (29 April 1885), p. 10
  • The pacification of Ireland at this moment does, I believe, depend upon the concession to Ireland of the right to govern itself in the matter of its purely domestic business... I do not believe that the great majority of Englishmen have the slightest conception of the system under which this free nation attempts to rule a sister country. It is a system which is founded on the bayonets of 30,000 soldiers encamped permanently as in a hostile country (Cries of "Shame.") It is a system as completely centralized and bureaucratic as that with which Russia governs Poland, or as that which was common in Venice under the Austrian rule.
    • Speech in Holloway Hall, Islington (17 June 1885), quoted in The Times (18 June 1885), p. 7
  • I want you not to accept as final or as perfect, arrangements under which hundreds of thousands, nay, millions, of your fellow-countrymen are subjected to untold privations and misery, with the evidence all around them of accumulated wealth and unbounded luxury. The extremes of wealth and of poverty are alike the sources of great temptation. I believe that the great evil with which we have to deal is the excessive inequality in the distribution of riches. Ignorance, intemperance, immorality, and disease—these things are all interdependent and closely connected; and although they are often the cause of poverty, they are still more frequently the consequence of destitution, and if we can do anything to raise the condition of the poor in this country, to elevate the masses of the people, and give them the means of enjoyment and recreation, to afford to them opportunities of improvement, we should do more for the prosperity, ay, for the morality of this country than anything we can do by laws, however stringent, for the prevention of excess, or the prevention of crime.
    • Speech in Hull (5 August 1885), quoted in Joseph Chamberlain, Mr. Chamberlain's Speeches, Volume I, ed. Charles W. Boyd (1914), p. 168
  • He is face to face with the whole population of England and Scotland, reinforced as it will be by at least one-fifth of the population of Ireland itself, and to threaten 32 millions of people with the vengeance of four millions is a rhetorical artifice which is altogether unworthy of Mr. Parnell's power and influence. (Hear, hear.) But it is said by him that justice requires that we should concede to Irishmen an absolute right to self-government. I would reply that that is a right which must be considered in relation to the security and welfare of the other countries in juxtaposition to which Ireland is placed, and with whose interests hers are indissolubly linked. I cannot admit that five millions of Irishmen have any greater inherent right to govern themselves without regard to the rest of the community than would the five millions of persons who inhabit the metropolis.
    • Speech in Warrington (8 September 1885), quoted in The Times (9 September 1885), p. 6
  • The great programme of our civilization is still not solved. We have to account for and to grapple with the mass of misery and destitution in our midst, co-existent as it is with the evidence of abundant wealth and teeming prosperity. This programme some men would put aside by reference to the eternal laws of supply and demand, to the necessity of freedom of contract, and to the sanctity of every private right of property. But these phrases are the convenient cant of selfish wealth. ... Our object is the elevation of the poorer of the masses of the people, a levelling up which shall do something to remove the excessive inequalities in the social condition of the people.
    • Speech in Warrington (8 September 1885), quoted in The Times (9 September 1885), p. 6
  • If we fail, let us try again and again until we succeed.
    • As a response to Prime Minister Gladstone's criticism of Chamberlain's "Radical Programme," from a Speech at Warrington, cited in "Great Issues in Western Civilization, Volume II" (Donald Kagan, 1992), pg. 419
  • I hope we may be able sooner or later to federate, to bring together, all these great dependencies of the British Empire into one supreme and Imperial Parliament (cheers), so that they should be all units of one body, that one should feel what the others feel, that all should be equally responsible, that all should have a share in the welfare and sympathize with the welfare of every part. That is what I hope, but there is very little hope for it if you weaken the ties which now bind the central portion of the Empire together. (Cheers.)
    • Speech in Rawtenstall (8 July 1886), quoted in The Times (9 July 1886), p. 6
  • [W]e want to convince the country that there is a better chance of really popular reform from a Unionist Government than from the Parnell–Gladstone.
    • Letter to Lord Hartington (21 January 1889), quoted in M. C. Hurst, 'Joseph Chamberlain, the Conservatives and the Succession to John Bright, 1886–89', The Historical Journal, 1964, Vol. 7, No. 1 (1964), p. 91


I believe that the British race is the greatest of the governing races that the world has ever seen.
  • I say that this Bill has been changed in its most vital features, and yet it has always been found perfect by hon. Members behind the Treasury Bench. The Prime Minister [William Gladstone] calls "black," and they say, "it is good": the Prime Minister calls "white," and they say "it is better." It is always the voice of a god. Never since the time of Herod has there been such slavish adulation. [Cheers, cries of "Progress!" and "Judas!"]
    • Speech in the House of Commons (27 July 1893) against the Irish Home Rule Bill
  • I have taken office with two objects; to see whether something cannot be done to bring the self-governing Colonies and ourselves into closer relations, and to attempt the development of the resources of the Crown Colonies, especially to increase our trade with those Colonies.
    • Letter (July 1895), quoted in N. Murrell Marris, The Right Honourable Joseph Chamberlain: The Man and the Statesman (1900), p. 379
  • The establishment of commercial union throughout the Empire would not only be the first step, but the main step, the decisive step towards the realization of the most inspiring idea that has ever entered into the minds of British statesmen.
    • Speech to the Chambers of Commerce of the Empire (9 June 1896), quoted in The Times (10 June 1896), p. 4
  • You can not have omelettes without breaking eggs; you can not destroy the practises of barbarism, of slavery, of superstition, which for centuries have desolated the interior of Africa, without the use of force; but if you will fairly contrast the gain to humanity with the price which we are bound to pay for it, I think you may well rejoice in the result of such expeditions as those which have recently been conducted with such signal success in Nyassaland, Ashanti, Benin, and Nupé—expeditions which may have, and indeed have, cost valuable lives, but as to which we may rest assured that for one life lost a hundred will be gained, and the cause of civilization and the prosperity of the people will in the long run be eminently advanced.
    • The True Conception of Empire (31 March 1897). Speech given to the Royal Colonial Institute.
    • The phrase "omlets are not made without breaking eggs" first appeared in English in 1796. It is from the French, "on ne saurait faire d'omelette sans casser des œufs" (1742 and earlier), attributed to François de Charette.
  • I venture to claim two qualifications for the great office which I hold, which to my mind, without making invidious distinctions, is one of the most important that can be held by any Englishman; and those qualifications are that in the first place I believe in the British Empire, and in the second place I believe in the British race. I believe that the British race is the greatest of the governing races that the world has ever seen.
    • Speech given to the Imperial Institute (11 November 1895), quoted in "Mr. Chamberlain On The Australian Colonies", The Times (12 November 1895), p. 6
  • Let it be our endeavour, let it be our task, to keep alight the torch of imperial patriotism, to hold fast the affection and the confidence of our kinsmen across the seas; so that in every vicissitude of fortune the British Empire may present an unbroken front to all her foes, and may carry on even to distant ages the glorious traditions of the British flag.


  • At the present moment the Empire is being attacked on all sides and in our isolation we must look to ourselves. (Cheers.) We must draw closer our internal relations, the ties of sentiment, the ties of sympathy, yes, and the ties of interest. (Cheers.) If by adherence to economic pedantry, to old shibboleths, we are to lose opportunities of closer union which are offered us by our colonies, if we are to put aside occasions now within our grasp, if we do not take every chance in our power to keep British trade in British hands, I am certain that we shall deserve the disasters which will infallibly come upon us. (Cheers.)
    • Speech in Birmingham (16 May 1902), quoted in The Times (17 May 1902), p. 12
  • The days are for great Empires and not for little States. The question for this generation is whether we are to be numbered among the great Empires or the little States.
    • Speech in Birmingham (16 May 1902), quoted in The Times (17 May 1902), p. 12
  • ...the expression was, "If you want our aid, call us to your Councils." Gentlemen, we do want your aid. We do require your assistance in the administration of the vast Empire which is yours as well as ours. The weary Titan staggers under the too vast orb of its fate. We have borne the burden for many years. We think it is time that our children should assist us, be very sure that we shall hasten gladly to call you to our Councils. If you are prepared at any time to take any share, any proportionate share, in the burdens of the Empire, we are prepared to meet you with any proposal for giving to you a corresponding voice in the policy of the Empire.
    • Speech to the Colonial Conference, quoted in 'Mr. Chamberlain's Opening Speech', The Times (4 November 1902), p. 5
  • For my own part I believe in a British Empire, in an Empire which, although it should be its first duty to cultivate friendship with all the nations of the world, should yet, even if alone, be self-sustaining and self-sufficient, able to maintain itself against the competition of all its rivals; and I do not believe in a Little England which shall be separated from all those to whom it would in the natural course look for support and affection, a Little England which would then be dependent absolutely on the mercy of those who envy its present prosperity, and who have shown they are ready to do all in their power to prevent its future union with the British races throughout the world. (Loud and continued cheers.)
    • Speech in Birmingham (15 May 1903), quoted in The Times (16 May 1903), p. 8
  • What are our objects? They are two. In the first place, we all desire the maintenance and increase of the national strength and the prosperity of the United the second place, our object is, or should be, the realization of the greatest ideal which has ever come to statesmen in any country or in any age—the creation of an Empire such as the world has never seen. (Cheers.) We have to cement the union of the States beyond the Seas. We have to consolidate the British race. We have to meet the clash of competition, commercial now. Sometimes in the past it has been otherwise; it may be again in the future. Whatever it be, whatever danger threatens, we have to meet it no longer as an isolated country. We have to meet it as fortified and strengthened and buttressed by all those of our kinsmen, all those powerful and continually rising States which speak our common tongue and pay allegiance to our common flag.
    • Speech in Glasgow (6 October 1903), quoted in The Times (7 October 1903), p. 4.
  • When Mr. Cobden preached his doctrine he believed, as he had at that time considerable reason to suppose, that while foreign countries would supply us with our foods and raw materials we should remain the workshop of the world and should send them in exchange our manufactures. But that is exactly what we have not done. On the contrary...we are sending less and less of our manufactures to them, and they are sending more and more of their manufactures to us...Our existence as a nation depends upon our manufacturing capacity and production.
    • Speech in Glasgow (6 October 1903), quoted in The Times (7 October 1903), p. 4.
  • In 1872 we sent to the protected countries of Europe and to the United States of America 116,000,000 of exported manufactures. In fell to 88,000,000. In fell to 75,000,000. In 1902, last year, although the general exports had increased, the exports of manufactures had decreased again to 73½ millions. And the total result of this is that after 30 years you are sending 42½ millions of manufactures less to the protected countries than you did 30 years ago. Then there the neutral countries...they have fallen 3½ have lost altogether in your export of manufactures 46 millions. How is it that that has not impressed the people before? Because the change has been concealed by our statistics...You have failed to observe that the continuance of your trade is dependent entirely on British possessions. While these foreign countries have declined 46 millions your British possessions have increased 40 millions.
    • Speech in Glasgow (6 October 1903), quoted in The Times (7 October 1903), p. 4.
  • Our Imperial trade is absolutely essential to our prosperity at the present time. If that trade declines, or if it does not increase in proportion to our population and to the loss of trade with foreign countries, then we sink at once into a fifth-rate nation. Our fate will be the fate of the empires and kingdoms of the past. We have reached our highest point...I do not believe in the setting of the British star; but then I do not believe in the folly of the British people. I trust them, I trust the working classes of this country. I have confidence that they who are our masters, electorally speaking, that they will have intelligence to see that they must wake up. They must modify their policy to suit new conditions.
    • Speech in Glasgow (6 October 1903), quoted in The Times (7 October 1903), p. 4.
  • The Colonies are prepared to meet us. In return for a very moderate preference they will give us a substantial advantage. They will give us, in the first place—I believe they will reserve to us the trade which we already enjoy. They will arrange for tariffs in the future in order not to start industries in competition with those which are already in existence in the mother country...But they will do a great deal more for you. This is certain. Not only will they enable you to retain the trade which you have, but they are ready to give you preference to all the trade which is now done with them by foreign competitors...We must either draw closer together or we shall drift apart...It is, I believe, absolutely impossible for you to maintain in the long run your present loose and indefinable relations and preserve these Colonies parts of the Empire...Can we invent a tie which must be a practical one, which will prevent separation...I say that it is only by commercial union, reciprocal preference, that you can lay the foundations of the confederation of the Empire to which we all look forward as a brilliant possibility.
    • Speech in Glasgow (6 October 1903), quoted in The Times (7 October 1903), p. 4.
I say that it is only by commercial union, reciprocal preference, that you can lay the foundations of the confederation of the Empire to which we all look forward as a brilliant possibility.
  • We, in a spirit of humanity of which I entirely approve, have passed legislation—to which I may say I have without boasting myself contributed very largely—to raise the standard of living amongst our working people, to secure to them higher wages, to save them from the competition of men of a lower social scale. We have surrounded them with regulations which are intended to provide for their safety. We have secured them, or the majority of them, against the pecuniary loss which would follow upon accidents incurred in the course of their employment. There is not one of those things which I have not supported...But they have all entailed expense, they have all raised the cost of production; and what can be more illogical than to raise the cost of production in this country in order to promote the welfare of the working classes, and then to allow the products of other countries—which are not surrounded by any similar legislation, which are free from all similar cost and expenditure—to allow them freely to bring each country in competition with our goods, which are hampered in the struggle?
    • Speech in Greenock (7 October 1903), quoted in The Times (8 October 1903), p. 8.
  • If you allow this state of things to go on, what will follow? If these foreign goods come in cheaper, one of two things must follow. Either you will have to give up the conditions you have gained, either you will have to abolish and repeal the fair-wages clause of our Factory Acts, and the compensation to workmen, and either you will have to take lower wages, or you will lose work. You cannot keep your work at this higher standard of living and pay if at the same time you allow foreigners at a lower standard and lower rate of pay to send their goods freely in competition with yours.
    • Speech in Greenock (7 October 1903), quoted in The Times (8 October 1903), p. 8.
  • Now the Cobden Club all this time rubs its hands in the most patriotic spirit and says, "Ah, yes; but how cheap you are buying." Yes, but think how that effects different classes in the community. Take the capitalist...His interest is to buy in the cheapest market, because he does not produce, but can get every article he consumes. He need not buy a single article in this country; he need not make a single article. He can invest his money in foreign countries and live upon the interest, and then in the returns of the prosperity of the country it will be said that the country is growing richer because he is growing richer. What about the working men? What about the class that depends upon having work in order to earn wages or subsistence at all? They cannot do without the work; and yet the work will go if it is not produced in this country. This is the state of things which I am protesting.
    • Speech in Greenock (7 October 1903), quoted in The Times (8 October 1903), p. 8.
  • Greenock was one of the great centres of the sugar trade...Then came foreign competition, aided by bounties; and your trade declines so seriously that only the very best, the very richest, the most enterprising, the most inventive can possibly retain their hold upon it. If there had been no bounties and no unfair competition of this kind what would have happened? In the last 20 or 30 years the consumption of sugar throughout the world has increased enormously. The consumption in this country has increased enormously; and you would have had your share...if normal conditions and equal fairness had prevailed; and at this moment in Greenock, quite independently of the other industries you may have found to occupy you, there would have been in sugar alone ten times as many men employed as there were in the most palmy days of the trade. But normal conditions have not obtained. You have been the sufferers; and, as I have said, a great number of your refineries have been closed, have disappeared altogether. The capital invested in them has been lost, and the workmen who work in them—what has become of them?
    • Speech in Greenock (7 October 1903), quoted in The Times (8 October 1903), p. 8.
  • Free imports have destroyed this industry, at all events for the time, and it is not easy to recover an industry when it has once been lost...They have destroyed agriculture...Agriculture as the greatest of all trades and industries of this country has been practically destroyed. Sugar has gone, silk has gone, iron is threatened, wool is threatened, cotton will go! How long are you going to stand it? At the present moment these industries, and the working men who depend upon them, are like sheep in a field. One by one they allow themselves to be led out to slaughter, and there is no combination, no apparent prevision of what is in store for the rest of them. Do you think, if you belong at present to a prosperous industry, that your industry will be allowed to continue? Do you think that the same causes which have destroyed some of our industries, and which are in the course of destroying others, will not be equally applicable to you when your turn comes?
    • Speech in Greenock (7 October 1903), quoted in Julian Amery, Joseph Chamberlain and the Tariff Reform Campaign (London: Macmillan, 1969), p. 471.
  • The Colonies are no longer in their infancy. They are growing rapidly to a vigorous manhood. Now is the time—the last time—that you can bind them closer to you. If now you disregard their aspirations and wishes, if when they make you an offer not specially in their interests but in the interests of the Empire of which we are all a portion—if when they make you this offer you reject it or treat it with scorn you may do an injury which will be irreparable, and, whatever you yourselves may feel in after life, be sure that your descendants will scorn and denounce the cowardly and selfish policy which you will have pursued.
    • Speech in Greenock (7 October 1903), quoted in The Times (8 October 1903), p. 8.
  • When I was in South Africa nothing was more inspiring, nothing more encouraging, to a Briton to find how the men who had either themselves come from its shore or were the descendants of those who had still retained the old traditions, still remembered that their forefathers were buried in its churchyards, that they spoke a common language, that they were under a common flag, still in their hearts desired to be remembered above all as British subjects, equally entitled with us to a part in the great Empire which they, as well as us, have contributed to make...I did not hesitate, however, to preach to them that it was not enough to shout for Empire...but that they and we alike must be content to make a common order to secure the common good. To my appeal they rose. And I cannot believe that here in this country, in the mother country, their enthusiasm will not find an echo. They felt, as I felt, and as you feel, that all history is the history of States once powerful and now decaying. Is Britain to be numbered among the decaying States? Has all the glory of the past to be forgotten? Have we to prove ourselves unregenerate sons of the forefathers who left us so glorious an inheritance? Are we to be a decaying State? Are the efforts of all our sons to be frittered away? Are their sacrifices to be vain? Or are we to take up a new youth as members of a great Empire which will continue for generation after generation, the strength, the power, and the glory of the British race?
    • Speech in Greenock (7 October 1903), quoted in The Times (8 October 1903), p. 8.
  • Lord Goschen tells you that France only takes 2 per cent. of its corn from abroad, that it is self-sufficient, and that Germany only takes 30 per cent., whereas, he says, we take four-fifths. That is not a comforting is not a comforting reflection to think that we, a part of the British Empire that might be self-sufficient and self-contained, are, nevertheless, dependent, according to Lord Goschen, for four-fifths of our supplies upon foreign countries, any one of which, by shutting their doors upon us, might reduce us to a state of almost absolute starvation. ... the working man has to fear the result of a shortage of supplies and of a consequent monopoly. If in time of war one of the great countries, Russia, Germany, France, or the United States of America, were to cut off its supply, it would infallibly raise the price according to the quantity which we received from that country. If there were no war, if in times of peace these countries wanted their corn for themselves, which they will do, or if there were bad harvests, which there may be in either of these cases, you will find the price of corn rising many times higher than any tax I have ever suggested. And there is only one remedy for it. There is only one remedy for a short supply. It is to increase your sources of supply. You must call in the new world, the Colonies, to redress the balance of the old. Call in the Colonies, and they will answer to your call with very little stimulus or encouragement. They will give you a supply which will be never failing and all sufficient.
    • Speech in Newcastle (20 October 1903), quoted in The Times (21 October 1903), p. 10.
  • What is the whole problem as it effects the working classes of this country? It is all contained in one word—employment. Cheap food, a higher standard of living, higher wages—all these things, important as they are, are contained in the word employment. If this policy will give you more employment, all the others would be added unto you. If you lose your employment, all the others put together will not compensate you for that loss.
    • Speech in Liverpool (27 October 1903), quoted in The Times (28 October 1903), p. 6.
  • It is absolutely impossible to reconcile free trade with trade unionism. You can have one or you can have the other, but you cannot have both; and I am glad to say that in saying that I have the support of a trade unionist with whom I have disagreed upon almost every other question, Mr. Keir is not only the consumer you have got to consider. The producer is of still more importance; and to buy in the cheapest market is not the sole duty of man, and it is not in the best interest of the working classes.
    • Speech in Liverpool (27 October 1903), quoted in The Times (28 October 1903), p. 6.
  • What is the good, I ask, in the name of common sense, of prohibiting sweating in this country if you allow sweated goods to come in from foreign countries? If you insist on limitation, of hours and upon precautions for security, bear in mind all these things add to the cost of production, to the difficulties of the manufacturer in selling his goods, and unless you give him some increased price, some increased advantage in compensation, then he cannot carry on competition any longer. All these conditions in the long run will result not to your advantage, for you will have no work to do, but to the advantage of the foreigner, who is not so scrupulous and who conducts his work without any of these conditions...If protected labour is good, and I think in many ways it is...then it is good to protect the results of labour, and you cannot do one without the other.
    • Speech in Liverpool (27 October 1903), quoted in The Times (28 October 1903), p. 6.
  • The day of small nations has passed away; the day of Empires has come.
The policy of resistance, of negation, is no sufficient answer to that Socialist opinion which is growing up amongst us—the Socialist opinion the objects of which are, after all, worthy of earnest and even favourable consideration.
  • You are suffering from the unrestricted imports of cheaper goods. You are suffering also from the unrestricted immigration of the people who make these goods. (Loud and prolonged cheers.)...The evils of immigration have increased during recent years. And behind those people who have already reached these shores, remember there are millions of the same kind who, under easily conceivable circumstances, might follow in their track, and might invade this country in a way and to an extent of which few people have at present any conception. The same causes that brought 10,000 and 20,000, and tens of thousands, may bring hundreds of thousands, or even millions. (Hear, hear.) If that would be an evil, surely he is a statesman who would deal with it in the beginning. (Hear, hear.)...When it began we were told it was so small that it would not matter to us. Now it has been growing with great rapidity, it has already affected a whole district, it is spreading into other parts of the country...Will you take it in time (hear, hear), or will you wait, hoping for something to turn up which will preserve you from what you all see to be the natural consequences of such an invasion? is a fact that when these aliens come here they are answerable for a larger amount of crime and disease and hopeless poverty than are proportionate to their numbers. (Cheers.) They come here—I do not blame them, I am speaking of the results—they come here and change the whole character of a district. (Cheers.) The speech, the nationality of whole streets has been altered; and British workmen have been driven by the fierce competition of famished men from trades which they previously followed. (Cheers.)...But the party of free importers is against any reform. How could they be otherwise?...they are perfectly consistent. If sweated goods are to be allowed in this country without restriction, why not the people who make them? Where is the difference? There is no difference either in the principle or in the results. It all comes to the same thing—less labour for the British working man. (Cheers.)
    • Speech in Limehouse in the East End of London (15 December 1904), quoted in ‘Mr. Chamberlain In The East-End.’, The Times (16 December 1904), p. 8.
  • Is the Unionist party, the Conservative party, to be without a definite policy of social reform? It is to our party that they owe the whole of that body of legislation connected with the Factory Acts, free education, the distribution of lands in the shape of allotments and small holdings, the compensation for accidents to workmen in the course of their employment...The policy of resistance, of negation, is no sufficient answer to that Socialist opinion which is growing up amongst us—the Socialist opinion the objects of which are, after all, worthy of earnest and even favourable consideration...that policy, by whomsoever propounded, is a policy which means money, which means expenditure, it is closely connected with the third object of our party officially declared—that fiscal reform is the first constructive policy of the Unionist party. (Cheers.)
    • Speech (25 June 1906), quoted in ‘The 1900 Club.’, The Times (26 June 1906), p. 14
  • The free-traders were against all State interference of any kind; they were against the Factory Act, they were opposed to the laws to prevent fraud and adulteration, especially in the interests of the working classes, they were against trade unions, they were in favour of unlimited competition, they would buy everything in the cheapest market and especially labour. ... we cannot logically and consistently attempt to defend labour against unfair competition without defending at the same time against unfair competition the product of that labour.
    • Speech in Birmingham (9 July 1906), quoted in The Times (10 July 1906), p. 11
  • England without an Empire! Can you conceive it? England in that case would not be the England we love. (Cheers.) If the ties of sympathy...between ourselves and our children who are soon to become great nations across the seas—if these ties were weakened or destroyed, if we suffered their affection to die from want of food, if we allowed them to drift apart—then this England of ours would sink from the comparative position which she has enjoyed throughout the centuries...she would be a fifth-rate nation existing on the sufferance of her more powerful neighbours.
    • Speech in Birmingham (9 July 1906), quoted in The Times (10 July 1906), p. 11
  • There are men in the House of Commons, who profess in a special sense to be the representatives of Labour, who would not allow me, who represent a great working-class claim to represent you. In order to do so I must be a man who did some work 30 years ago and never did any since. (Loud laughter.) It is these men who are at the present time blackening the characters of those who are upholding the British dominion and British honour throughout the world...They have no ear of sympathy for the men who suffered for the Imperial cause. The other day some officers, British soldiers, were murdered with savage brutality for no reason or provocation. They had no sympathy with those officers or the families that they left behind them, their only idea was to shield the assassins from the proper penalty of their crime. ("Traitors.")...But one thing I will say, and I say it in your name; these men at any rate do not represent the working classes of England (loud cheering), and never yet in our history or in the history of the British race has a great democracy been unpatriotic. (Hear, hear.)
    • Speech in Birmingham (9 July 1906), quoted in The Times (10 July 1906), p. 11
  • It is a question (of native labour) which has engaged my most careful attention in connection with West Africa and other Colonies. To listen to the right honourable gentleman, you would almost think that it would be a good thing for the native to be idle. I think it is a good thing for him to be industrious ; and by every means in our power, we must teach him to work. No people ever have lived in the world's history. who would not work. In the interests of tbe natives all over Africa, we have to teach them to work.
  • We are all of us taxed, and taxed heavily. Is that a system of forced labour? To say that because we put a tax on the native therefore he is reduced to a condition of servitude and of forced labour is, to my mind, absolutely ridiculous. It is perfectly fair to my mind that the native should contribute something towards the cost of administering the country.
  • If that really is the last word of civilization, if we are to proceed on the assumption that the nearer the native or any human being comes to a pig the more desirable is his condition, of course I have nothing to say I must continue to believe that, at all events, the progress of the native in civilization will not be secured until he has been convinced of the necessity and the dignity of labour. Therefore, I think that anything we reasonably can do to induce the native to labour is a desirable thing, the existence of the tax is an inducement to him to work.

Quotes about ChamberlainEdit

  • I believe that the more you consult colonial opinion, the more it will be brought home to the minds of every one of you that in those outlying and most important portions of our Empire it is my right hon. friend that they look as the man who, above all others, has made the British Empire a reality (loud cheers), not only to those who live in these islands, but to every subject of his Majesty the King.
    • Arthur Balfour, speech at the Guildhall, London (13 February 1902), quoted in The Times (14 February 1902), p. 8
  • There was something else in the example of my father's life which impressed me very deeply when I was a young man, and which has greatly influenced me since I took up a public career. I suppose most people think of him as a great Colonial Secretary and tariff reformer, but before he ever went to the Colonial Office he was a great social reformer, and it was my observance of his deep sympathy with the working classes and his intense desire to better their lot which inspired me with an ambition to do something in my turn to afford better help to the working people and better opportunities for the enjoyment of life.
    • Neville Chamberlain, speech in the Albert Hall, London (12 May 1938), quoted in The Times (13 May 1938), p. 11
  • I loved dining with Joe Chamberlain; he was a sparkling animal, attractive and fascinating, but he was a disrupter, a bad element. The Conservative Party was mad to adopt the raw doctrine of Imperial Preference.
    • Winston Churchill in conversation with his doctor, Lord Moran (19 January 1952), quoted in Lord Moran, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940–1965 [1966] (1968), p. 393
  • When I was twenty-two I saw the great Joe Chamberlain for the first time. ... I was immensely impressed from the first moment with Mr. Chamberlain's remarkable personality. ... What impressed me most about him was his decisiveness and the fact that he always knew exactly where he was going. ... He asked me to stay with him at Highbury, which was like a pilgrim going to Mecca. ... [H]e...said—"Why do the people not realise that Germany is making war upon us, that her economic attack is just as surely an act of aggression as if she had declared hostilities? She will never rest until she dominates the world and before ten years are over, mark my words, she will be using her terrible military machine and nothing can prevent our being involved." ... On another occasion he said—"Tariff reform is our defence. It is just as vital as the navy. We must arm if we are not to be beaten without striking a blow."
    • Lord Croft, My Life of Strife (1948), pp. 42, 46-47
  • Above all else, whether you agreed with him or not, there could be no other verdict but that "This was indeed a man," for in an age of great debaters he stood out as a born fighter with an uncompromising mind and burning faith. ... One meets only two or three people in life who at first contact make one feel "command me and I will follow" and Chamberlain was one of them. ... The great test is surely whether a man's influence lives on after he has gone and in this respect Chamberlain must be unique. He was never Prime Minister, and yet if you want to raise a certain cheer with any ordinary British audience you have only to mention his name. ... Go overseas and you will find that across Canada, in every part of British Africa, Australasia or the East...if British statesmanship is discussed, the name of Chamberlain always crops up. This is not so much for what he did...but because through him there breathed something new, a fresh outlook, a creed to inspire, a new hope in unity and union. We have never seen his like again—may I leave it at that.
  • Mr. Chamberlain is unquestionably the future leader of the people. ... He is a Radical and doesn't care who knows it as long as the people do.
    • David Lloyd George, North Wales Observer (17 October 1884), quoted in Thomas Jones, Lloyd George (1951), p. 14
  • I recognise that Mr. Chamberlain's historic agitation has rendered one outstanding service to the cause of the masses. It has helped to call attention to a number of real crying evils festering amongst us, the existence of which the governing classes in this country were ignorant of or overlooked. ... He has committed the party which, by temperament, tradition, and interest, is opposed to great changes—he has committed it to propositions which social reformers of other schools of thought have hitherto in vain sought to convert them.
    • David Lloyd George, speech to a meeting of the Liberal-Christian League in the City Temple, London (17 October 1910), quoted in The Times (18 October 1910), p. 7
  • [Chamberlain delivered] two remarkable speeches in [1885], that at Glasgow on September 15, and that at Inverness three days later. I still remember, as though it were but yesterday, the thrill of pleasure which went through Radical Scotland when the first speech was delivered. Its bold audacity struck the imagination of the country. We waited with interest and at a high tension for the Inverness pronouncement. The earnest candour of the man who based his politics upon the fact that one in every thirty people in the country was on the parish, that one in every ten was on the border of starvation, as he had done in Glasgow, and was flaunting the classes with cavalier indifference whilst declaring that for the increase of the material resources of the poor there was "no hope whatever except in the radical revision of the laws which affect the tenure of land," touched the imagination of Radical Scotland... Mr. Chamberlain's speech at Inverness was therefore no ordinary pronouncement. People flocked to the town from far and near—and they were rewarded. Never was the crofter position better put. He reiterated his doctrines about land ownership. A volcano of fury shot up next morning from the Conservative press, but thousands of hearts were stirred for the coming contest by the joy that at last a man had appeared who really meant business.
    • Ramsay MacDonald, 'Mr. Chamberlain as a Social Reformer', Life of Joseph Chamberlain (1914), pp. 164-166
  • Mr. Chamberlain is at this moment the most popular and the most trusted man in England. He is the most popular of British statesmen throughout our Empire. To our kin beyond the seas he, more than any other man, stands for Imperial unity and consolidation.
  • The loss of Chamberlain alone was immeasurable disaster; his influence with the democracy had for some time past exceeded Gladstone's; I found of late that if audiences cheered Gladstone's name for two minutes, they cheered Chamberlain's for five. ... In any case, the energy of a Parliament created for social reform was to be spent on prolonged struggle over a subject which had formed no part of the election programme. Working men would find that their devotion had been thrown away, their confidence abused, the promised reforms to which they gave their votes postponed indefinitely, if not altogether sacrificed, to a measure which no one among them had ever heard.

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