Herbert Henry Asquith

By: Wendell Vest

General Information

Born at Morley, West Riding, Yorkshire ; 12 September 1852

Educated at City of London School, and Balliol College, Oxford. Elected Fellow of Oxford 1874.

Barrister at Fig Tree Court at Temple

Elected to Parliament as a Liberal, 1886.

Home Secretary in Gladstone's last Government 1892.

Chancellor of the Exchequer in Campbell-Bannerman's Liberal Government in1905.

Prime Minister 1909

As Prime Minister he introduce People's Budget of 1909 which was rejected by the House of Lords. This breach of the unwritten constitution led the a Parliament Bill which reduced the power of the House of Lords to veto legislation.

Led a united British Empire into war with Germany after Germany violated Belgian neutrality.

Asquith, a brilliant parliamentarian, was not a good wartime leader. His laissez faire method of governing led to serious shortcomings in Britain's conduct of the war.

Formed a coalition government with Unionist Party members after a cabinet crisis in May 1915 brought about by the resignation of the First Sea Lord John Fisher over Gallipoli, and a munitions shortage on the Western Front.

Asquith did not understand, nor could he control, the Generals who insisted that all effort be mad to break the German lines in France. This led to the disatrous campaign on the Somme in July 1916. In that battle which lasted until November Britain had over 500,000 casualties, without appreciable gains in ground. The nation was appalled. Members of the Unionist party, as well as members of his own party, blamed Asquith.

In December 1916, Lloyd George who was the Secretary of State for War, with the backing of both Liberal and Unioniast members of Parliament demanded that a small war cabinet br formed with out the Prime Minister, and that this cabinet be resposible for the conduct of the war.

Asquith resigned as Prime Minister, December 5, 1916.

Insignificant in Opposition to Lloyd Gerogre and susequent Coalitions.

Created Earl of Oxford and Asquith by King George V in 1925.

Died 15 Febrruary 1928.

"My collegues tell military secrets to their wives, except X who tells them to other people wives"
(This was a statement made by Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War in the early days of the War. The X is believed to have been Asquith.)

Asquith is believed to have been the first prime minister since the younger Pitt who is said to have been manifestly worse for drink when on the Treasury Bench. A ditty in the London Music Halls went:

Mr. Asquith says in a manner sweet and calm:
Another little drink won't do us any harm.