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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

DensleyBlair

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Whenever I read a piece like this, I'm always reminded of the scene in The Man who Would Be King where Sean Connery's character (I forget the characters' names; it's been a while), after having set himself up as a god-king to the isolated Afghan tribe he and his partner in crime (played by Michael Caine) have encountered, he decides to take one of the village women as his new queen. During the wedding ceremony, she panics when he leans in to kiss her, because she's afraid the touch of a god will surely kill her. She ends up biting his cheek in the confusion -- not enough to do any serious harm, but just enough to draw a little blood.

And just like that, the illusion is broken. Gods aren't supposed to bleed, you see. Everything ends up going downhill (literally) for the impostor god-king not too long after.

Equally, I’m reminded of that infamous picture of MacArthur towering over Hirohito.
 
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slothinator

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Excellent writing all around!
I'm looking forward to developments from this parliament and empire in turmoil!
 

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A lot packed into this update!

Interesting to see the shape of alliances across Europe taking shape. If the Berlin-St Petersburg axis holds strong then the Kaiser will surely be victorious whenever the Great War comes - but its sounds like that pact is under strain.

I'm loving the idea of Commons seats for the colonies. There were plenty of real people around this period who were proposing this - but the practicalities of governing New Zealand and Australia as integral parts of the UK made it a bit impractical to really push for. Perhaps some sort of devolved arrangement (like NI post partition or Scotland and Wales today) where there is some Commons reputation but also an assembly with a degree of self-governing authority might be an effective compromise solution.
 

guillec87

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subbed!
 

BigBadBob

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Wow a second Britain AAR on the subforum. This one is also very good!
I love the 1901 start date idea as it provides a cool variety. Your writing is good and actually our styles of writing somewhat match.
Just like me you also ask questions like,

and then answer them. I do the same.

Following. Good writing.

Thanks, orc. I've been, slowly, catching up on Jihad on the Savannah in the midst of furious writing (22,515 words in the Word doc for 1901 as of 17:22 GMT, 3 July); it's damn good stuff you've produced.

Happy to have you on board, and a massive thank you for the ACA vote after just two essays. It's a hell of a confidence booster.

There is a great phrase I encountered in the series Chernobyl which seems most apt for Britain right now in this telling: "Our power is bsaed on the perception of our power". When that perception takes a hit, the power likewise crumbles.

The more you read about the late Empire, the more you realise this was not only true, but explicitly acknowledged by the UK itself. The concept of prestige as power is a very British imperial obsession. As late as the Suez Crisis, Robert Menzies (then-PM of Australia) said this:

It is apparently not fashionable to speak of prestige. Yet the fact remains that world peace and the efficacy of the United Nations Charter alike require that the British Commonwealth and, in particular, its greatest and most experienced member, the United Kingdom, should retain power, prestige, and moral influence.

A messy time all round for diplomats and politicians the world over. Intrigued by hints of shifting battle lines in Europe, particularly the reference to the Franco–German relationship. Meanwhile, the Empire cutting the Commons into about six pieces does not strike me as a brilliant assurance of stability at an increasingly fractious time…

Also intrigued to see Asquith making an entrance when we’ve had so many invented politicians.

There are, indeed, alliance shenanigans galore in store before the fateful autumn of 1911.

I will provide a health warning that, while some attempts are made to fit real politicians' actions to their OTL histories and personalities, there will be divergences. In the words of Napoleon;

To understand the man, you have to know what was happening in the world when he was twenty.

For many of these men, the world at twenty will have been increasingly different to the one their OTL counterparts knew as we move farther on the timeline.

Whenever I read a piece like this, I'm always reminded of the scene in The Man who Would Be King where Sean Connery's character (I forget the characters' names; it's been a while), after having set himself up as a god-king to the isolated Afghan tribe he and his partner in crime (played by Michael Caine) have encountered, he decides to take one of the village women as his new queen. During the wedding ceremony, she panics when he leans in to kiss her, because she's afraid the touch of a god will surely kill her. She ends up biting his cheek in the confusion -- not enough to do any serious harm, but just enough to draw a little blood.

And just like that, the illusion is broken. Gods aren't supposed to bleed, you see. Everything ends up going downhill (literally) for the impostor god-king not too long after.

Wonderful reference.

And to you a massive thank you for the ACA vote as well. I will do my best to justify your vote of confidence.

Equally, I’m reminded of that infamous picture of MacArthur towering over Hirohito.

And another wonderful reference.

Excellent writing all around!
I'm looking forward to developments from this parliament and empire in turmoil!

Thank you. I hope the quality will remain the same, at least, as those developments are laid out.

A lot packed into this update!

Interesting to see the shape of alliances across Europe taking shape. If the Berlin-St Petersburg axis holds strong then the Kaiser will surely be victorious whenever the Great War comes - but its sounds like that pact is under strain.

I'm loving the idea of Commons seats for the colonies. There were plenty of real people around this period who were proposing this - but the practicalities of governing New Zealand and Australia as integral parts of the UK made it a bit impractical to really push for. Perhaps some sort of devolved arrangement (like NI post partition or Scotland and Wales today) where there is some Commons reputation but also an assembly with a degree of self-governing authority might be an effective compromise solution.

As I said to Densley; shenanigans await!

While today's essay will not yet deal with the Imperial Federation (being situated before the Boer War), the question will dominate the 1900s, at least domestically.


Happy to have you on board.
 
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BigBadBob

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THEY ARE COMING FOR BRITAIN
The Election of 1900 and the Birth of the Atlantic Alliance
Simon MacDonald

The end of Splendid Isolation was not a bolt out of the blue. The election of 1900 matters not because the debate on continental alliances and entanglements was contained entirely in the fractious winter and spring of 1899-1900, but because it settled an argument that had been quietly raging in the heart of the British diplomatic and defence establishment for over a decade. If a moment can be pinpointed that set this argument off, it is not the Conservative and Liberal Parties’ joint splits in late 1899 on the issue, but the defeat of France in the Franco-German War of 1887.

At the outbreak of war, both the Foreign and War Offices considered France and Germany to be evenly matched. While the Prussian Army had proven itself effective in the German Unification Wars of the 1870s, it was assumed that the addition of troops from the smaller states would cause cohesion to suffer to the point that the smaller French Army’s superior tactics and equipment could cover the manpower gap. The six-month stomping that France received quickly proved these assumptions wrong.

The shock in Whitehall was palpable. Major-General Walter Garnet, recently returned from Egypt, is recorded to have called it, in a meeting with War Secretary Augustus Averell, ‘a moment more terrifying in its implications for imperial security than anything in [Garnet’s] career.’ The Major-General had famously served in India through the entire 1858-61 Mutiny.

Down the road, at the Admiralty, Admiral Sir James Allen, First Naval Lord, took the opposite view. While German strength was certainly a shock, and had profound implications for British diplomacy on the continent, imperial defence was unaffected; the Royal Navy still matched the next three navies combined (Italian, French, and Spanish). First Lord of the Admiralty Arthur Conrad agreed with Sir James, and brought the counterargument to Cabinet on October 12th 1887, when Averell was relaying the dire warnings from officials and soldiers in the War Office.

Lord Salisbury chose to agree with Conrad, even though his private diary would later confirm that his assessment was based on hope as much as it was the arguments of the two military men. The PM’s stance ended the discussion for the day. That Cabinet meeting on October 12th, 1887, would define the terms of the debate for the duration of the second Salisbury and early Sinclair Ministries. Every official report about the German Army, every official visit by a British politician to view their manoeuvres, every plea by the French Ambassador to take the threat seriously, would be followed by a letter to the Cabinet and PM from the War Secretary. Every letter would be followed by a dismissive counter from the Admiralty.

By 1893 however, the situation had changed in two important ways. First, the Three Power Standard had become increasingly impossible to keep. The Italian and Spanish navies had expanded at a worrying pace, and the German Navy - once practically non-existent - had surpassed its French counterpart as that service was starved of funds in favour of the Army, a reprioritisation only compounded by the loss of Brest to a now-independent Brittany in 1887. Second, it was clear that the new spending demanded by the National Insurance Acts would require economies to be made by the Exchequer if taxes were not to rise.


charles a nicholson - Copy.jpg

Sir Charles A. Nicholson, 1890
As Treasury Permanent Secretary for almost four decades (1864-1899), Nicholson embedded Gladstonian fiscal probity in the department, and is practically inescapable in the history of Whitehall

If there is one man who can lay claim to have ended the Three Power Standard, it is Sir Charles Arthur Nicholson. Appointed by then-PM William Gladstone as Permanent Secretary over the objections of then-Chancellor Lord Hartington, and the first appointment made under the terms of the new Civil Service Act 1864, Nicholson was the man who had done more than anyone to instil fiscal conservatism in the department and the department at the centre of government. So influential was C. A. N. that it was joked his initials stood for ‘Chancellor in All but Name.’* He also, famously, hated the Three Power Standard, so much so that he was reputed to have informed at least two incoming Chancellors that ‘by hook or by crook, we will break the Admiralty.’

As Whitehall’s arch-Gladstonian, Nicholson naturally despised the NI Acts and all they stood for, but relished the opportunity they provided to cut fat. When the First Lord reported back to his officials, after a Cabinet expenditures meeting in November 1893, that the Chancellor’s first target had been the Three Power Standard, it was the very opposite of a surprise. With the War Office sensing blood in the water, and other departments desperately trying to avoid having Nicholson’s eye turned on them, the Admiralty finally lost the battle.

In the less secure world of the Two Power Standard, the Admiralty’s argument against a new imperial defence strategy began to lose its invulnerability. However, with Nicholson still supreme, if not more powerful than ever, the War Office could not advocate for increased Army spending to make up for the loss in naval security. This naturally led to the conclusion that Britain would have to find allies. The most obvious candidate was the French. Supported by British troops, however comparatively meagre, they could hold the enemy’s attention on land in the early war while the Royal Navy eliminated any threat on the high seas.

There was still though, one major obstacle to the plan. Sir William Sinclair, while a titan on the domestic scene, did not much care for foreign policy. Whilst this might have allowed the Foreign Secretary, Austen Chamberlain, free rein under another man, Sinclair’s lack of care was not indifference; rather, it was a dogged determination to keep foreign affairs in stasis to avoid events abroad imperilling the new economic settlement. Chamberlain, who had taken on board - and understood the implications of - the concerns of the War Office and Admiralty admirably quickly, thus resolved that he, or someone who also understood the situation, should replace Sinclair.


austen chamberlain - Copy.jpg

Austen Chamberlain, 1897
Appointed Foreign Secretary in 1893 at only 30 years old, Chamberlain was one of the greatest diplomatic minds of the Turn of the Century, if not the greatest

By the time opportunity came knocking in mid-1897, the situation had become even worse. The German Navy was now at parity with the Italian Navy, and Nicholson continued to brutally starve the military departments of funds. In July of that year, exhausted by the stress of nine years at the top of politics - six in No 10 - the election of that year, and the preparations for the Diamond Jubilee, the Prime Minister suffered a heart attack in Downing Street. Although physical recovery was quick, the Cabinet could see that something was off.

Chamberlain’s assault was two-pronged; first, he gathered a group who were worried by the PM’s lethargy and distractedness, and willing to consider his removal. Then he spoke to Sinclair himself, coming to Downing Street for a meeting on September 1st as ‘a friend and confidante.’ There, he confided his concerns for the PM’s health to the PM. Over the course of a three-hour discussion, during which both men got ‘quite drunk,’** Chamberlain convinced the PM to resign for the good of his health; if not for his own sake, then for his wife’s.

In the subsequent leadership contest, Sinclair endorsed Chamberlain on the basis of that very same meeting. The Foreign Secretary transferred his household to Downing Street on September 22nd, 1897, at the age of only 33 years and 11 months. One of his first acts was to convene a meeting that would become a monthly occurrence through the Chamberlain Ministry as the Atlantic Alliance took shape. ‘The Wednesday Club’ consisted of the PM, War Secretary, First Lord, Foreign Secretary, Chancellor, and Charles Nicholson.

Initially, the group focussed only on how to achieve an accord with the French, until, in a June 1898 meeting, it was noted that the North Atlantic Squadron was, by now, a token force when compared to the US Navy. If the Americans could be induced to abandon their isolationism, forces could be diverted from the Americas to Europe and the Mediterranean. It was Chamberlain who told the Foreign Secretary to offer the United States free rein when it came to Cuba in return.

In secret talks over the autumn of 1898, both the French and the Americans proved receptive. Chamberlain proposed a joint conference for early 1899, ostensibly a goodwill gathering between three liberal and democratic powers. The foreign ministers of the three powers met in Liverpool that May. Over the course of three weeks, they sketched out a declaration of goodwill that would be signed by all at a grand ceremony a year later. The delay was to ensure the unwritten agreement made in parallel was honoured; the US and Royal Navies would expand, as would the French Army.


rosebery - Copy.jpg

Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl Rosebery, 1899
As leader of the isolationist (also known as dove) wing of the Liberal Party, Rosebery almost succeeded in removing Chamberlain as Prime Minister after the Liverpool Conference

The reaction to the preliminary declaration in Britain was electric. Some who had been warning of the German Menace for years greeted it like the Second Coming, while others, particularly in Chamberlain’s own party, considered it to be like the coming of the Antichrist. As Lord Rosebery gathered isolationist MPs in the liberal Party to his standard, and it became clear that Chamberlain had a mountain to climb, he made what was surely the greatest mistake of his premiership. When the question of funding for the naval expansion demanded by the Conference came to his desk, the PM and Chancellor listened to Nicholson. In what was to be his last intervention before suffering a debilitating stroke at the age of 76, Nicholson recommended cutting National Insurance disbursements.

The uproar over this was equal to that over the Conference; Rosebery’s faction swelled to over half of Liberal MPs. Many were willing to sacrifice Splendid Isolation for security, but they were not at all willing to sacrifice an inch of the ground National Insurance had gained to pay for it. Rosebery called for a Vote of No Confidence in the party leader. Only an impassioned speech defending the need for allies and a rapid climbdown on National Insurance saved the PM from a humiliating exit. He won the vote on August 22nd 193-158.

It had, however, become clear that Chamberlain could not push through with the planned signing of what was now known as the Entente Cordiale with the current parliamentary makeup. Despite what his Cabinet was telling him, Chamberlain still tried to muddle through the winter of 1899-1900, convinced he could sway enough Liberals that, with the support of Conservatives, he could pass a resolution approving the declaration. He finally admitted defeat in March and, in hopes that facing defeat to the Conservatives would force the party to rally behind him, he called an election for July 1st.

This proved a false hope. While the Liberal civil war continued, the Conservatives successfully consolidated, with Lord Brunel expelling a raft of MPs and replacing them with pro-Entente candidates on the ballot. Without such aggressive action, the Conservative split, while not as intense as that of the Liberals, could very well have given Chamberlain a chance. Instead, the PM was at the head of a party busier attacking itself than the opposition. Brunel, pounding his fist on the podium and proclaiming that his respect for the Prime Minister’s acumen and diplomatic skill could not make up for the disaster that was his party, swept to power on July 1st.


election 1900 - Copy.jpg

Results for the UK General Election of 1900

Brunel’s government would almost immediately sign the Entente Cordiale and act on Nicholson’s suggestion. Within two years, they would have gone further on the expansion of the military than Chamberlain in his wildest dreams. This is one of the ways in which the election of 1900 ended the debate on Splendid Isolation. A Liberal victory would have put a comma on the discussion, with a large faction of the government still unreconciled.

Conservative victory ushered in a government that was utterly committed to the new rivalry with Germany. It also allowed H. H. Asquith, the new leader of the Liberals, to crush the isolationist wing of the party. So effectively did he paint Rosebery and his supporters as the cause for defeat that, in 1903, he was able to appoint as Shadow Foreign Secretary none other than Austen Chamberlain.



* Another joke that often made the rounds outside the Treasury was that he insisted on having paper with his initials on it purely so that he could save on pen expenditure; he needed only to append an apostrophe and a T in response to any request for funds.

** That is, according to Sinclair’s personal papers, both got drunk. Chamberlain never responded to questions about his own mental state at that meeting.
 
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DensleyBlair

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Nothing like a parliamentary battle to get in the way of sound diplomatic policy. Or, indeed, meddling from Whitehall. Nicholson seems to embody just about everything I dislike about the government of Britain: mean, moralistic and utterly convinced of his own importance. Nevertheless, interested to see Brunel taking the reins.

I will provide a health warning that, while some attempts are made to fit real politicians' actions to their OTL histories and personalities, there will be divergences. In the words of Napoleon;

To understand the man, you have to know what was happening in the world when he was twenty.

For many of these men, the world at twenty will have been increasingly different to the one their OTL counterparts knew as we move farther on the timeline.

This is a principle I always enjoy. Pretty much all of the fun of Vicky (amongst other Paradox games) is, for me, how it forces you to make accommodations for the game even in the most meticulously planned and researched alternate history. Adding that element of unpredictability means there's usually much more freedom in messing around with historical characters.
 

stnylan

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Yes, one gets a real sense of the fragility of Britain at this point in time and timeline, of pressure building, and of refusal to meet it.
 

Specialist290

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Definitely some tantalizing hints about the state of the wider world in that last chapter. Interesting to see that they've managed to get the United States involved in an alliance as well; having the world's premier naval and industrial powers (assuming the US has followed its usual course) both on the same side is going to make for an interesting Great War setup.
 

slothinator

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Goodness me that is a long Indian Mutiny, I wonder how close they came to success.
It's good to see Germany being as terrifying as always.
Interesting political maneuvering going on there. One should hope that the Americans aren't quite so politically divided and will be of aid when there is need for it.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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This is smashing stuff. Excellent work.
 

Tommy4ever

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Interesting to see foreign policy become such a salient issue in domestic party politics - a rare thing in a great power. It shows the level of anxiety, in the political class atleast, at the decline of Britain’s relative power with the rise of the continentals.

Getting entangled with the French is a risky business - it’s inevitable they will lead Britain into war, let us hope with American backing whatever conflict comes is a winnable one. Britain better get moving to make sure the Germans aren’t able to build up a network of alliances of their own.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Interesting to see foreign policy become such a salient issue in domestic party politics - a rare thing in a great power. It shows the level of anxiety, in the political class atleast, at the decline of Britain’s relative power with the rise of the continentals.

The explosion was always going to come though. Splendid isolation sounds a wonderful thing in history books but in actuality it just means everyone hates you at least a little bit, whilst you have no friends but still have to try to operate on the world stage.

Teaming up with 1900 amercia is a pretty good idea. They only really cared about the amercias at this time and GB can make sure it stays that way, with the empire serving as the alliance bag man on the world stage outside the Pacific (where amercia did already have some concerns) and it allows cooperation in the carribean (which is the one area where the US and UK genuinely had competing interests that could be turned around with some diplomacy).
 

BigBadBob

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Nothing like a parliamentary battle to get in the way of sound diplomatic policy. Or, indeed, meddling from Whitehall. Nicholson seems to embody just about everything I dislike about the government of Britain: mean, moralistic and utterly convinced of his own importance. Nevertheless, interested to see Brunel taking the reins.



This is a principle I always enjoy. Pretty much all of the fun of Vicky (amongst other Paradox games) is, for me, how it forces you to make accommodations for the game even in the most meticulously planned and researched alternate history. Adding that element of unpredictability means there's usually much more freedom in messing around with historical characters.

Nicholson is very much a p*ick, but incredibly fun to write about. Nobody ever enjoyed writing, or reading, about endless smooth sailing.

I've always loved AAR-writing for the fact that the game and (since Vicky II doesn't tend to diverge absurd amounts unless the player specifically drives for it) history give you something of a framework to play around in. You can go as nuts as you want, but also don't have to come up with absolutely everything yourself.

Yes, one gets a real sense of the fragility of Britain at this point in time and timeline, of pressure building, and of refusal to meet it.

Pressure!
Pushing down on me, pressing down on you,
Ger-man ask for,
Under pressure, that burns a continent down,
That splits Great Powers in two,
Puts men in trenches.


Definitely some tantalizing hints about the state of the wider world in that last chapter. Interesting to see that they've managed to get the United States involved in an alliance as well; having the world's premier naval and industrial powers (assuming the US has followed its usual course) both on the same side is going to make for an interesting Great War setup.

I have an essay ready on the Naval Race, which touches on how the Atlantic complicates things even when the Americans are, theoretically, on board from the jump.

As for industry, the US was a bit slow to start, so they're 3rd or 4th in 1911, if I recall correctly. They have got going now though, so, as you know, it's only a matter of time.

Goodness me that is a long Indian Mutiny, I wonder how close they came to success.
It's good to see Germany being as terrifying as always.
Interesting political maneuvering going on there. One should hope that the Americans aren't quite so politically divided and will be of aid when there is need for it.

The Mutiny indeed came closer, and had a much bigger effect on domestic politics TTL, which the essay on India (finished last night) will elaborate on.

Germany and completely wrecking the continental Balance of Power; name a more iconic duo.

Let's just say, according to the history as I've written it, it's lucky for the Entente that the war started in October 1911 instead of exactly a year later.

This is smashing stuff. Excellent work.

Thank you. I aim to please.

Interesting to see foreign policy become such a salient issue in domestic party politics - a rare thing in a great power. It shows the level of anxiety, in the political class atleast, at the decline of Britain’s relative power with the rise of the continentals.

Getting entangled with the French is a risky business - it’s inevitable they will lead Britain into war, let us hope with American backing whatever conflict comes is a winnable one. Britain better get moving to make sure the Germans aren’t able to build up a network of alliances of their own.

Can't have a General European War without France and Britain. It would be very rude.

The explosion was always going to come though. Splendid isolation sounds a wonderful thing in history books but in actuality it just means everyone hates you at least a little bit, whilst you have no friends but still have to try to operate on the world stage.

Teaming up with 1900 amercia is a pretty good idea. They only really cared about the amercias at this time and GB can make sure it stays that way, with the empire serving as the alliance bag man on the world stage outside the Pacific (where amercia did already have some concerns) and it allows cooperation in the carribean (which is the one area where the US and UK genuinely had competing interests that could be turned around with some diplomacy).

Good analysis of the Anglo-American strategic convergence. Chamberlain also saw that, hence the offer of free rein in Cuba (which, as I was typing this, I realised I spelt 'reign' in the update. An egregious mistake, now corrected).
 

BigBadBob

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ENGLAND IS NOT ENGLAND
The Early Federation Debate, 1902-1907

John James Courtenay

Imperial Federation was not an entirely new idea when it shot to the forefront of British politics in the summer of 1904. Its genesis could arguably be found all the way back in the American Revolution, when the colonists had demanded representation in Parliament. For those who led the conversation in the early 20th Century though, this was history long over. Instead, the arguments that shaped them were the parallel debates of the 1860s and ‘70s on Canada and Ireland.

In both, the towering figure had been William Gladstone. In both, he had advocated for the extension of rights and autonomy. With Canada, he had succeeded; the Canada Act 1867 granted three Responsible Governments (one of which, Canada, was divided by the Act into Ontario and Quebec) the status of Dominion as the Confederation of Canada. Whilst the rights of the Dominion to legislate were not greatly enlarged, the formalisation of the duty of Westminster to consult Ottawa before legislating for Canada - and extension of that duty to the appointment of a new Governor-General - was an unmistakable change in the relationship.

With Ireland, he had been forced to compromise. The foremost advocate of Home Rule in the political class outside of Ireland, he had twice almost brought down his own government over the issue by the time he was forced out of No 10 over the future of the Indian Empire post-Mutiny. Twice he had backed down out of concern that a Conservative victory in the ensuing General Election would cause irreparable damage to the relationship between the two constituent parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Finally, faced with the same dreaded General Election when Lord Hartington announced his intention to resign in January 1873, he accepted that he would have to be content with ending the Green Bar, or see the Conservatives lose the battle for Ireland altogether.

For the three factions that defined the early debate on Imperial Federation, Gladstone was a litmus test. There were the absolutists who considered even the Representation of the People (Ireland) Act 1875 a step too far, who considered Gladstone almost a Lord North figure. He may not have lost Ireland outright, but he had capitulated to the undeserving Irish. There were those who were absolute the other way; the Dominionists that considered Gladstone not to have gone far enough in Canada, let alone Ireland. Finally, there were those who admired Gladstone for his compromise and believed they could even improve upon it.


sykes-emory - Copy.jpg

H. L. Sykes-Emory, 1899
Long the Conservative Party’s deepest thinker on the question of the Union’s future, Sykes-Emory’s position as Colonial Secretary allowed him to frame the very early debate on Responsible Government

It was a stroke of luck that two men of the last type were in important positions at the moment the debate flared up. Both the new Leader of the Liberal Party, Herbert Henry Asquith, and the Colonial Secretary, Hugh Leonard Sykes-Emory, had been at Balliol College, Oxford, in the early 1870s. Both had vacillated between Home Rule and Representation as solutions to the Irish Question. Both had come to the conclusion that neither option was suitable. One too much a separation, the other too insensitive to the different needs of Ireland from those of Great Britain.

Throughout the period between the Trouble of 1877 and the Boer War, Asquith and Sykes-Emory had corresponded on the subject of the Responsible Governments. Unlike most politicians of the age, who considered the matter settled by the collapse of the Irish Nationalist Party in the 1886 General Election, they could see that the growth of South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand would eventually create another Canada Moment, as they called it. Sykes-Emory was also convinced that the Canada Moment would reopen the wounds in Ireland.

Within their respective parties, both had attempted to force a discussion. Sykes-Emory in particular was famous in his party as an agitator for more Ireland-centred policies. While he argued that Ireland needed to benefit from the Union, rather than just accept it as unbreakable, for the INP’s doldrums to become permanent, the fact that he was mostly joined by the Irish members of his party allowed leadership to relegate him to being simply ‘Dublin’s Man in England.’ It was one of the reasons that he became Colonial Secretary in 1900; too influential to be on the backbenches, the Colonial Office would keep him occupied with matters outside the Union.


asquith - Copy.jpg

H. H. Asquith, 1905
As Leader of the Liberal Party (1900-1910), Prime Minister (1905-10), and one of the founders of the Imperial Federation League, Asquith defined much about the early Federation

Asquith, meanwhile, had learned to keep his mouth shut on the matter by 1898. In a letter to Sykes-Emory that year, he confided to the latter that he believed ‘we are now heading inexorably to the Canadianisation of the empire. All of us who understand the peril have been relegated to watching, helpless, from the stands as the fast bowler is brought out against a sub-par batter.’ Less than two years later, Asquith had been catapulted to the head of the Liberal Party by the very relegation he had so lamented. His relative unimportance in the squabble between Rosebery and Chamberlain meant that he was an acceptable compromise candidate, framing the defeat as the result of the split itself, rather than either side. Of course, being an ardent admirer of Sir William Sinclair, Asquith turned out to be ruthless – and very much on Chamberlain’s side – once he had actually become leader.

Though they could not have predicted the Boer War would be the catalyst for the Canada Moment, when they saw the arguments being made by the Boers appearing in the British press with less than immediate dismissal, both Asquith and Sykes-Emory could tell what was happening. Already by January 1903, Asquith was sounding out his Cabinet on the issue of the Responsible Governments. His correspondence with the Colonial Secretary also ramped up, reaching a fever pitch in the spring of 1904, just before the Westminster Bomb. Both men could see the Conservative Party going down its old path of absolutist refusal and the Dominionists gathering strength in the Liberal Party.

Having gathered what they hoped was a sufficient number to their cause over the course of the summer, the two men unveiled their plan, gestating since their days together at Balliol, to a meeting of 27 Liberal and Conservative MPs on August 14th 1904. The Responsible Governments would not receive Dominion rights, nor would they be fully absorbed. The Commons would be expanded to 700 seats, with 50 reserved for apportionment according to the electoral roll of what would be renamed the Imperial Commonwealths. The position of Governor-General would be abolished, and its powers would be divided between the Commonwealth’s head of government and Westminster. Most importantly, the veto would pass to London by reverting to the Crown. In this manner, the new settlement would allow the Responsible Governments to stay separate and legislate for their own circumstances, but be pulled closer to Britain by giving them a stake in Westminster. After a silence that varies by account, but lasted at least five minutes, the MPs gathered signed up, one by one, to Asquith and Sykes-Emory’s new Imperial Federation League, and went out into the London evening to recruit more to their cause.

When they announced the formation of the IFL, numbering 201 MPs, on August 16th, 1904, these men were thus not responding rapidly. It was not political opportunism or panicked consolidation of the anti-Absolutist and anti-Dominionist middle of the new debate; it was the culmination of three decades of thought and preparation by two men who had been obsessed with the question now at hand throughout their careers. At times quietly, at times loudly, they had advanced their thoughts on the matter, but never had they outright given up (save perhaps for Asquith’s moment of despair in 1898).

With the Liberals now split between Federation Leaguers and Dominionists, and busy absorbing an influx of Conservatives, and the Conservatives busy absorbing an even more sizeable contingent of Liberal absolutists,* both Brunel and Asquith called an unofficial truce. Neither man wished to ‘Chamberlain’ himself, and there was already an election scheduled for July 1905 regardless. Both parties prepared as if for war. For the Conservatives, this was much easier, having only to agree that they were all absolutist on the issue at hand, and find an acceptable balance on National Insurance.

For the Liberals, this was a battle on three fronts. Not only did the new Federation League Shadow Cabinet have to convince the Dominionists, and find an acceptable balance on National Insurance, unlike the Conservatives, they knew that Ireland would be the decisive battleground of 1905. Sykes-Emory had foreseen the resurgence of Irish Nationalism as early as the 1870s, and he did not intend to lose that battle. While Asquith scared the Dominionists into submission, Emory-Sykes, now Shadow Secretary of State for the proposed Ministry of the Federation went on the offensive in Ireland.


redmond - Copy.jpg

John Redmond, Liberal and Irish Nationalist, 1905
As a Liberal MP who had maintained ties with the INP, Redmond was the perfect go-between for Sykes-Emory and the resurgent Irish Nationalist movement in the run-up to the 1905 General Election

John Redmond, a Liberal MP since 1891, had begun his parliamentary career in 1876 as one of the 87 Irish Nationalists elected in the first election without the Green Bar. As the political winds in Ireland turned gentler in the late 1880s, Redmond too softened his stance, defecting to the Liberal Party in Westminster, but maintaining extensive ties with the more moderate elements of the INP. He and Sykes-Emory had not exactly been friends before 1904, but Redmond recognised the latter’s sympathy for the dilemma facing the Irish when Emory-Sykes approached him to act as the go-between for the Liberals and the INP.

Sykes-Emory knew that, if the Irish vote divided between the Liberals and INP, the Conservatives would march through the middle and secure a majority on the back of seats in Ireland. He and Redmond thus worked long nights throughout the winter of 1904-05 to identify moderate Irish Nationalists who would be willing to support the IFL proposal. The selling point was the standing down of the Liberal party in the seat, and the prospect that, once the new settlement was in place, the subject of extension to Ireland could be broached.

Despite this alliance, the election of 1905 turned into the closest run contest since 1891. The Liberal-INP alliance, while strategically successful, cost the pro-Federation side votes overall, and the Conservatives managed to poll nearly 50%, marginally more than the Liberals and INP combined. Lord Brunel came 7 seats from returning to No 10. He was, in fact, the first person asked to be Prime Minister, and actually did spend ten days in Downing Street while awaiting the results of the requisite Vote of No Confidence to prove he could not control the House.


election 1905 - Copy.jpg

Results for the UK General Election of 1905

A government majority of 8, and one that relied on the INP at that, was not one that could get a lot done. What it could do though, was push through the one policy that the entire alliance had been built on. The Imperial Federation Bill battled its way through the Commons over the autumn of 1905 on strict Alliance-Opposition votes. At one point, the tabling of an Amendment prematurely including Ireland in the scope of the Bill as an Imperial Commonwealth nearly scuppered the whole thing. It took Redmond, Asquith, and Sykes-Emory all personally pleading to the amendment’s author Colin Ryan, MP for County Cork South, to save the Bill. Had the amendment gone to a vote, the split caused within the Liberals would almost certainly have doomed the legislation as a whole.

Even with the withdrawal of Ryan’s amendment, the scare it had given three Liberals meant that the bill passed its Third Reading by the narrowest possible margin; 336-334. Every single elected member of the House of Commons had dragged themselves in to vote. Unlike the last such momentous vote though, on Suffrage in 1892, the reaction was not jubilation. There was instead a stunned silence, broken only by the sound, after three minutes, of one, then two, then one hundred pens scribbling ferociously in the Press Gallery.

With a majority of one, Asquith was right to have what he called ‘a terror of the Lords.’ Over the course of the debate, it seemed certain that the Bill would be coming back or be killed. The government had no idea if it could make it through a second vote, and so coming back could very well mean the death of the Bill as surely as an outright defeat in the Lords. The first hurdle was thus to ensure there were no amendments to force a return by Consideration. This the government managed to do by the tireless efforts of Lord Baring, who coordinated a campaign of whipping and planned intervention by Liberal peers closer to the conduct of the Commons than the upper house. However, Baring confided in Asquith that much of his success owed itself to an argument that the Bill should succeed or fail on its own merits, and many of the closest-fought amendments had failed only due to the votes of Conservative peers that disliked them for making the Bill more palatable to their less hard-line colleagues. This latter, moderate group of Conservative peers was the key to victory, but Baring could not seem to convince the required number of them.

The decisive Third Reading was set for November 3rd, 1905. That day, in the middle of the final debate, in an unprecedented breach of convention, Asquith walked into the chamber of the House of Lords. Striding to the despatch box, he readied himself for the speech that most consider to be the defining moment of his premiership. Even the Constitutional Crisis of 1909-10 does not contain a moment that looms so large. Laying out the entirety of his thinking on the Union and the Empire, from Balliol to the moment he stepped into the Other Place, Asquith made his argument for Federation. He finished with one of the most well-known passages in the English language:


What I am asking you, my lords, is not to approve a mere, small change in the makeup of the House of Commons. What I am asking you, my lords, is not to bring crashing down the underpinnings of the Acts of Union. What I am asking you, my lords, is to fulfil the promise made in the Acts of Union 1707 and 1801, that England is not England. That England is not an island off the coast of Europe. That England is not an accident of birth this or that side of Hadrian’s Wall, or of the Irish Sea, or even of the Atlantic.
England is the shared soul of all who believe in liberty; in the ancient and natural rights of man; in good governance; in justice, fairly applied; in civilisation. England is that equal temper of heroic hearts that has, by the Grace of the Almighty, been given the privilege to bring the light of this Scept’red Isle to the darkest corners of the world. England, and all it stands for, my lords, is here, in your hands, today.

After a long wait outside the Chamber, Asquith was met by Lord Brunel. No words were exchanged. Brunel simply shook the Prime Minister’s hand and nodded. The Bill had passed 245-232.

hol 1905 - Copy.jpg

After the Prime Minister, Gordon Edwards
Painted between 1905 and 1907, Edwards’ painting depicts the moment after Asquith left the House of Lords on November 3rd

With the Imperial Federation Act 1905 having become law, it was expected the government would call another election. Instead, Asquith demurred. Having achieved the passage of the Act, he wished to give time for the governments of the new Commonwealths to form. The 50 new members would be elected as if in a by-election, and the House would temporarily number a record 720 MPs. The system would have to be proved to work before it could be put to democratic scrutiny by an election.

It took two years to draw boundaries, register electors, and actually run the elections required. Of the 50 new MPs elected, 23 were Liberals, 20 were Conservatives, and 7 were independents or regionalists. As with Suffrage, both Universal and Women’s, and the end of the Green Bar, the Conservative fear of a radical new electorate was overblown. These 50, relatively moderate MPs were, however, not enough to undo the simple fact that the INP still held the balance, and promises had been made. In early 1908, with Redmond’s compatriots becoming impatient, the first phase of the Federation Debate came to an end.


* Both parties, once so sharply divided on the subject that asking for one’s opinion on Ireland was almost more reliable an indicator than asking for the box one checked on the ballot, had by 1904 been so reordered by the trifecta of Suffrage, National Insurance, and the Entente Cordiale that it was no longer much of an indicator. That is, not until that fateful summer of 1904.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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Unlike most politicians of the age, who considered the matter settled by the collapse of the Irish Nationalist Party in the 1886 General Election, they could see that the growth of South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand would eventually create another Canada Moment, as they called it.

A couple of grand designers with foresight and a grand plan. Dangerous, but such things make or break the fates of empires.

Every single elected member of the House of Commons had dragged themselves in to vote. Unlike the last such momentous vote though, on Suffrage in 1892, the reaction was not jubilation. There was instead a stunned silence, broken only by the sound, after three minutes, of one, then two, then one hundred pens scribbling ferociously in the Press Gallery.

The winds of history and fate were in the room. They all seem to recognise it.

What an excellent series this is. An excellent useable of Vicky II.
 

DensleyBlair

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My word, that's a lot going on in Westminster. Nice to see Asquith actually getting stuff done, although I'm not sure I like the sound of where all this "England, my England" talk is headed... Resurgent imperial spirit is a troubling thing at the best of times, but one senses it could have a big impact only a few years off a Great War.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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My word, that's a lot going on in Westminster. Nice to see Asquith actually getting stuff done, although I'm not sure I like the sound of where all this "England, my England" talk is headed... Resurgent imperial spirit is a troubling thing at the best of times, but one senses it could have a big impact only a few years off a Great War.

The idea whenever great wars pop up is to avoid the first one then win the second, having lost little and gaining the knowledge of what to do. So if this means they don't go all out into France, this is probably a good thing.
 

DensleyBlair

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The idea whenever great wars pop up is to avoid the first one then win the second, having lost little and gaining the knowledge of what to do. So if this means they don't go all out into France, this is probably a good thing.

Staying away would be ideal, presuming the war is over some trivial dispute between imperial families. I'm more concerned that exceptionalism will skyrocket and Westminster will be drawn into a pissing contest with the Germans, but who knows what Sir Robert has in store for us. Smug empire-focused isolationism would be a reasonable enough outcome.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Staying away would be ideal, presuming the war is over some trivial dispute between imperial families. I'm more concerned that exceptionalism will skyrocket and Westminster will be drawn into a pissing contest with the Germans, but who knows what Sir Robert has in store for us. Smug empire-focused isolationism would be a reasonable enough outcome.

I don't really want a return to isolation seeming like a good or achievable thing, but if they do manage to federalise and unify the empire a state it stood in 1901, that's a ridiculous amount of land and power stably under their control already. European affairs at that point become laughable (what are the 'enemy' whoever they are going to do, invade the British isles somehow and fend off the empire reinforcements?) and the big draw becomes sorting out a plan for Africa and Asia (because those borders are huge, difficulty to defend and valuable to everyone) both on land and at sea. That will require doing something deals with some people, but who? Ideally, the colonial powers a,ready there of course, but oh no! They are all based in Europe, and much weaker there than Germany, who really wants to add to their small colonial empire AND dominate Europe.

Thus the choice is either siding with the current colonial masters like the Netherlands and France, knowing that you would have to bail them out of a upcoming war with Germany, or gambling that Germany is a better bet and siding with them, throwing colonial Africa and Asia into chaos, and deliberately planning a huge aggressive war in Europe.

Both seem terrible choices, which is why the British here seemed to have gone with strengthen the empire, bring in the Americans as a potentially huge and untouchable ally, whilst biging France up as the big power in Europe with lots of powerful friends. That also won't work because the Germans were ran by a military headed by an idiot with delusions of grandeur but it should be enough to keep the war reasonably short (if the Germans don't break France within the first few months they're better off negioting a peace before they get steamrolled by the entente or stabbed in the back by Russia or Austria.
 
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