Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

JANUARY 17th  

On this day in history in 1863, was born David Lloyd George.

Lloyd George was a lawyer and a politician who was the last Liberal to be Prime Minister.  

Despite the fact that he was born in Manchester, David Lloyd George always maintained his Welshness. He was of Welsh descent and spoke the Welsh language fluently. Shortly after he was born, the family returned to Wales and took up farming, but sadly his father died in 1864 and his mother was obliged to move in with her brother, a cobbler and lay preacher, at Llanystumdwy.   

Lloyd George received a basic education and at the age of fourteen was articled to a solicitor. Upon passing his final law examinations in 1884, he set up a law practice in the parlour of his uncle’s house. He became active in politics, campaigning for the Liberal Party in the 1885 General Election and speaking for Chamberlain in the local Liberal Club when the party was in danger of factionalising.  

In 1888, Lloyd George married Margaret Owen, the daughter of a local farmer. In the same year, he founded Udgorn Rhyddid (Proclamation of Freedom), a radical monthly journal, whose title was more radical that its content, and campaigned solely on local issues. Later that year, Lloyd George won a case before the Queen’s Bench, which established the right of Nonconformists to be buried in their local Anglican parish churchyard but according to the rites of their own denomination. This case settled a grievance long held by the local community with the consequence that Lloyd George was selected as Liberal Party candidate for Caernarfon.  

In 1890, Lloyd George was elected to Parliament with a majority of 19 votes. He sat on the Liberal back benches in an informal group of Welsh Liberals with an agenda of extending the Temperance Movement and disestablishing the Anglican Church in Wales. At about the turn of the Century, he became known for his opposition to the Boer Wars, in particular to the cost of the war, which he said was depriving the country of much needed reforms such as old age pensions, workers’ housing and social security.  

In 1907, Lloyd George was granted a post in the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade and in 1908, he was advanced to Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was in this position that Lloyd George made his greatest contribution to political reform. He instituted old age pensions, unemployment benefit and sick pay, paid from National Insurance contributions and state support. 

In order to defray the cost of these widespread proposals, Lloyd George introduced a budget taxing the landed gentry and affluent businessmen. The budget was rejected by the House of Lords, provoking a constitutional crisis. The Liberal government called a general election, which they won convincingly, but the Lords continued to reject the budget. After another general election on the theme of whether the country was to be governed by elected representatives or unelected aristocrats, the Liberals were, once again, elected.  

The government now proposed a Bill, which would restrict the power of the Lords to obstruct financial legislation, but the Lords blocked this Bill. The government then prevailed upon George V to create enough Liberal peers to pass the Bill but when the king agreed to this, the Lords allowed the Parliament Act to pass through the Lords.  

When war with Germany was looming, Lloyd George took a pacifist stance as he had during the Boer War but once war had been declared, he declared that nothing must impede the country in its pursuit of victory. Lloyd George became Minister of Munitions in 1915 and War Secretary in 1916.  

Lloyd George now manoeuvred to remove Asquith as Prime Minister. The government was, at that time, a coalition of Liberals and Conservatives, with a Liberal majority. Lloyd George tended to side with the Conservatives in the Cabinet, especially on their stance on the conduct of the war. The Conservatives favoured maintaining the positions on the Western Front, while the Liberals were for a thrust in the East. Kitchener, a non-political Cabinet member, supported Asquith but after he died in June 1916, Lloyd George could exert further pressure. Asquith’s son was killed at the Battle of the Somme and he could no longer face the stress of government. In December 1916, he resigned in favour of Lloyd George who kept the war mostly confined to the Western Front and achieved victory in 1918. 

After the war, Lloyd George won an election on a mandate of exacting war reparations from Germany. At the Paris Peace Conference, he insisted that Germany should pay “the uttermost farthing”. This was in stark contrast to American president Woodrow Wilson and economist John Maynard Keynes who favoured a more measured approach. Keynes referred to Lloyd George as a ‘half-human visitor to our age from the hag-ridden magic and enchanted woods of Celtic antiquity’. Lloyd George had his way and Germany was saddled with war reparations, a debt it never could pay.  

Lloyd George’s coalition fell apart in 1922, when the Conservatives could take no more of Lloyd George’s reforming zeal. Furthermore, there was a suggestion that Lloyd George had been selling knighthoods and peerages in aid of party funds and his own pocket. The coalition broke up and in 1923, a Conservative government was returned.  

Lloyd George remained in the House of Commons until 1945 when he received a peerage. He became Father of the House of Commons in 1929 but refused offers of government posts in the National government of 1931 or the War Cabinet of 1939.  Lloyd George died in 1945 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

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