Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden

British politician (1864–1937)
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Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden (18 July 186415 May 1937) was a British politician, and the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The function of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as I understand it, is to resist all demands for expenditure made by his colleagues and, when he can no longer resist, to limit the concession to the barest point of acceptance.


  • The object of Socialism is not to render the individual capable of living on his personal resources. That is the theory of radical individualism. Its object is to create in him a greater and greater sense of his dependence upon the state, and, at the same time, to inculcate in him the conviction that he is a part of it and that he has a duty and responsibility toward the state; and that only in so far as he fulfils this duty can he benefit by the advantages of a complete personal and social life.
    • On the Insurance Bill (Labour Leader, 14 July 1911)
  • "Truth," it has been said, "is the first casualty of war."
    • Introduction to Truth and the War, by E. D. Morel. London, July 1916. p. ix p. xiii in the 3rd edition 1918 (cf. Aeschylus#Misattributed)
    • Hiram Johnson is often credited with this statement, or something similar. However, Snowden's use appears to have predated those of Johnson while being more consistent with the now-common, "Truth is the first casualty of war."
  • It is no part of my job as Chancellor of the Exchequer to put before the House of Commons proposals for the expenditure of public money. The function of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as I understand it, is to resist all demands for expenditure made by his colleagues and, when he can no longer resist, to limit the concession to the barest point of acceptance.
    • To the House of Commons (30 July 1924, H.C. Deb. Vol. 176, Cols 2091-2)
  • I would like to see the word 'nationalization' banned from the socialist vocabulary.
    • The Daily Herald (15 October 1928)
  • I hope you have read the election programme of the Labour Party...this is not socialism. It is Bolshevism run mad.
    • BBC radio broadcast (17 October 1931)
  • They were told that Cobdenism was dead. ... Cobdenism was never more alive throughout the world than it was to-day. ... To-day the ideas of Cobden were in revolt against selfish nationalism. The need for the breaking down of trade restrictions, which took various forms, was universally recognized even by those who were unable to throw off those shackles.
    • Speech to the Dunford House (Cobden Memorial) Association at the Hotel Victoria (7 July 1932), quoted in The Times (8 July 1932), p. 9

Quotes about Snowden

  • He was really a tender-hearted man, who would not have hurt a gnat unless his party and the Treasury told him to do so, and then only with compunction. ... We must imagine with what joy Mr. Snowden was welcomed at the Treasury by the permenant officials. All British Chancellors of the Exchequer have yielded themselves, some spontaneously, some unconsciously, some reluctantly to that compulsive intellectual atmosphere. But there was the High Priest entering the sanctuary. The Treasury mind and the Snowden mind embraced each other with the fervour of two long-separated kindred lizards, and the reign of joy began. He was a preaching friar with no Superior to obey but his intellect. ... The British democracy should be proud of Philip Snowden. He was a man capable of maintaining the structure of Society while at the same time championing the interests of the masses.
    • Winston Churchill, 'Philip Snowden', Sunday Pictorial (2 August 1931), quoted in Richard Langworth (ed.), Churchill By Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations (PublicAffairs, 2011), p. 374
  • It is always difficult for an administration or party which is founded upon attacking capital to preserve the confidence and credit so important to the highly artificial economy of an island like Britain. Mr. MacDonald’s Labour-Socialist Government were utterly unable to cope with the problems which confronted them. They could not command the party discipline or produce the vigour necessary even to balance the budget. In such conditions a Government, already in a minority and deprived of all financial confidence, could not survive. The failure of the Labour Party to face this tempest, the sudden collapse of British financial credit, and the break-up of the Liberal Party, with its unwholesome balancing power, led to a national coalition. It seemed that only a Government of all parties was capable of coping with the crisis. Mr. MacDonald and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, on a strong patriotic emotion, attempted to carry the mass of the Labour Party into this combination. Mr. Baldwin, always content that others should have the function so long as he retained the power, was willing to serve under Mr. MacDonald. It was an attitude which, though deserving respect, did not correspond to the facts. Mr. Lloyd George was still recovering from an operation – serious at his age; and Sir John Simon led the bulk of the Liberals into the all-party combination.
  • When perhaps any Government would have been broken by economic events beyond the control or even the influence of this country—but when the outdated Treasury views of the pre-Keynes era, reinforced by the Puritan Cobdenism of Snowden, prevented any expansionist action to relieve unemployment. Men were sacrificed and left to rot under the Treasury doctrine that the way to deal with unemployment caused by chronic deficiency of demand was to add to that deficiency by cruel retrenchment.
    • Harold Wilson, speech at a luncheon in the House of Commons to commemorate the centenary of Ramsay MacDonald's birth (12 October 1966), quoted in The Times (13 October 1966), p. 12