Balfour, Arthur J.
(1848–1930)
   Arthur J. Balfour, First Earl Balfour of Wittinghame, was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1902 to 1905 in succession to his uncle Lord Salisbury, and later Foreign Secretary under David Lloyd George from 1916 to 1919.
   Known for his air of aristocratic languor, Balfour was a skilled Commons debater, and also a noted philosopher. Briefly associated with the populist Tory “fourth party” in the early 1880s, he joined Salisbury’s cabinet in 1886. In 1887, he was given the demanding job of Irish Secretary, where his stern law-and-order Unionism earned him the sobriquet “bloody Balfour.” In 1891, he became leader in the Commons as First Lord of the Treasury - the Prime Minister being in the Lords - a role in which he continued when the Tories were in office until he succeeded to the Premiership in 1902.
   Balfour’s premiership is primarily memorable for divisions within the Unionist party, chiefly over imperial tariff policy. Following the massive Liberal victory of December 1905, he led the Conservative opposition until 1911, and against his own party’s diehards, favored a compromise over the Parliament Act of that year. During World War I, Balfour joined Liberal Prime Minister H. H. Asquith ’s coalition ministry of 1915 as First Lord of the Admiralty, after the departure of Winston Churchill as a result of the Dardanelles disaster. He moved to the Foreign Office when his old adversary Lloyd George became Premier in December 1916. As Foreign Secretary he did much to solidify U.S. support for the allied war effort, but he is chiefly remembered for the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which expressed approval for the idea of Jewish homeland in Palestine, as a means of attracting Jewish support for the western side in the war. He played a role secondary to Lloyd George at the Paris peace conference of 1919.
   At the Imperial conference of 1926, Balfour negotiated with the settlement Dominions the agreement formalized in the Statute of Westminster of 1931, by which the independent Dominion governments were recognized as governments of the Crown equal in status to that at Westminster. The Statute of Westminster marked the final transformation so far as the settler states were concerned of the British Empire into the British Commonwealth of Nations.
   See also <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Dugdale, B.E.C. Arthur James Balfour, First Earl Balfour. 2 vols. London: Hutchinson, 1936;
    Rasor, E. L. Arthur James Balfour: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1998.
   MARK F. PROUDMAN

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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