Walter Long, 1st Viscount Long

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The Right Honourable
The Viscount Long
Walter Hume Long, 1st Viscount Long portrait.jpg
The Viscount Long (1903).
Secretary of State for the Colonies
In office
10 December 1916 – 10 January 1919
Monarch George V
Prime Minister David Lloyd George
Preceded by Andrew Bonar Law
Succeeded by The Viscount Milner
First Lord of the Admiralty
In office
10 January 1919 – 13 February 1921
Monarch George V
Prime Minister David Lloyd George
Preceded by Sir Eric Geddes
Succeeded by The Viscount Lee of Fareham
Leader of the Irish Unionist Alliance
In office
Preceded by Edward James Saunderson
Succeeded by Sir Edward Carson
Personal details
Born 13 July 1854 (1854-07-13)
Bath, England
Died 26 September 1924 (1924-09-27)
West Ashton, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Ulster Unionist
Spouse(s) Lady Dorothy Boyle
(c. 1860–1938)
Children 5
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
Religion Anglican

Walter Hulme Long, 1st Viscount Long, PC, FRS, JP (13 July 1854 – 26 September 1924) was a British Unionist politician. In a political career spanning over 40 years, he held office as President of the Board of Agriculture, President of the Local Government Board, Chief Secretary for Ireland, Secretary of State for the Colonies and First Lord of the Admiralty. He is also remembered for his links with Irish Unionism and served as Leader of the Irish Unionist Party in the House of Commons from 1906 to 1910.

Background and education[edit]

Long was born at Bath, the eldest son of Richard Penruddocke Long, by his wife Charlotte Anna, daughter of William Wentworth FitzWilliam Dick (originally Hume). Richard Chaloner, 1st Baron Gisborough, was his younger brother. On his father's side he was descended from an old family of Wiltshire gentry, and on his mother's side from Irish gentry in County Wicklow. A young Walter lived at Dolforgan, Montgomeryshire, a property owned by his grandfather, where he learnt to ride. Whilst living there, his father inherited the Rood Ashton estate. Long went to Hilperton school, Amesbury, where he was harshly disciplined by Edwin Meyrick. At Harrow, Walter was popular, proving a sporty captain of cricket. It was during his studies at Christ Church, Oxford, that his father had a mental breakdown, and two years later died in Feb 1875. Upon his father's death, he took over management of the family properties, whilst his mother moved into a house in Oxford. It was a stressful time, during which he was frequently summoned by his mother, and his younger brother also accumulated gathering debts. Long continued to box, ride and hunt, as well as play college cricket. Afternoons spent with the Bicester, Heythrops, and South Oxfordshire hunts, were matched by the university Drag Hunt. His proficiency was reflected in the early offer to become Master of the Vale of White Horse, which he turned down. His agent H Medlicott despaired at the danger to the family fortune, urging him to cut his relations loose; but he raised a new £30,000 mortgage on lands, which Medlicott complained, he would have to sell. On coming down from Oxford in 1877, he purchased a Coach and Four for £200. After a year in Wiltshire, he married Lady Boyle.

Political career, 1880–1911[edit]

Long was determined on a career in politics, campaigning at Marlborough in a traditional Liberal seat in 1879. But Sir George Jenkinson agreed to resign in North Wiltshire, where he was adopted by 'half a dozen country gentlemen'.[1] At the 1880 general election, Long was elected to parliament as a Conservative for North Wiltshire, a seat he held until 1885. A supporter of Lord Beaconsfield, empire, church and state, he was against extending education, but favoured bible teachings in schools. A two-member constituency North Wiltshire, he won the seat by more than 2000 votes. At the time Beaconsfield died on 19 April 1881, he was making a record of his days in the Commons:

I rose somewhere about 8.30 and as a new member was duly called.

The Liberal government was in trouble over Egypt and the Bradlaugh incident; and the Conservatives were internally divided. He hunted for the Beaufort Hounds.

I selected as my time, midnight until, if necessary, eight in the morning. I used to leave London at 5.30 in the morning, providing the House was up, take the train down to Chippenham, have my hunt, and get back to London by train leaving Chippenham about 7.30... I was at the House at midnight and I would stay there till it rose.[2]

He made his first speech on 26 July 1880 during the third reading of the Compensation for Disturbances (Ireland) bill.

Long won his seat with a reduced majority of 95 votes at the Nov 1885 General Election. There was considerable anger at the Conservatives 'Fair Trade policy' for workers. He believed English people had little understanding of Ireland or the minority in Ireland that Home Rule would not protect. Gladstone's Home Rule policy would lead to the dismemberment of the empire. The home rule policy was defeated, Long was returned with an increased majority of 1726 votes in July 1886. Aged thirty-two, Long was asked to become a junior minister to C T Ritchie at the Local Government Board, in Salisbury's government. They had noticed his unswerving support from the backbenches. He was approachable and had a no-nonsense manner, an excellent memory: logical and crisp. He was both mature and responsible for a young MP. The very strong connections he had with the agricultural community assisted local government in his area. He entered government for the first time in 1886 in Lord Salisbury's second administration as Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, serving under Charles Ritchie, and became one of the architects of the Local Government Act 1888, which established elected county councils.

Long dealt with Poor Law reform in the county areas, slum reforms, reform of the London county council, and better housing for the working-classes. He was deputed to make speeches backing the government position on the LCC bill, although he was not responsible for its draft or passage. Ritchie was to deal with the towns in Local Government Act 1888, but was ill for the period, and Long had "a sound grasp its details and essentials."[3] On 6 Feb 1887, he made an important speech in the "Plan of Campaign" from which unionism there seemed to encourage landlordism. However behind the law for tenant compensation, Long knew lay a deeper demand for independence. He continued to be worried by the Liberals policy of Home Rule, supporting the Irish Unionists who opposed it.[4] He could not square the retention of Irish MPs at Westminster under the scheme for the second home rule bill. Irish MPs could control English, Scottish, and Welsh affairs, so he argued. The issue was central to the General Election of 1892. Long had returned from Canada on a tour speaking on the federal system there. He reiterated the claim that Ulster Unionists would never accept the bill. But Liberals argued that the Conservatives would raise bread prices, and lower wages if returned, "the labourers are ignorant lot and swallowed it whole", he decried.[5] Long was defeated by 138 votes, losing his seat. In July 1892, Liverpool West Derby became vacant. And Long defeated the Liberal candidate by 1357 votes at the by-election of 1893. Knowing his grasp of parliamentary procedure, Balfour hired him to be a strategist in opposition. The Liberals appointed Long to the Royal Commission on Agriculture, meeting at Trowbridge on 18 Jan 1893.

Long continued in connections with Ireland throughout his career. He did not wish to sever legislative ties of Union with Ireland; but only to offer "an extension of the privileges of local government to the Irish people".[6] Home Rule was thrown out by the Lords on 8 Sept 1893, by 419 votes to 41. In June 1895, the Liberals were resoundingly defeated in the Lords, and the following month Salisbury was returned for another ministry.

After the Conservative defeat in 1892, Ritchie's retirement made Long the chief opposition spokesman on local government, and when the Tories returned to power in 1895, he entered the cabinet as President of the Board of Agriculture. In this role he was notable for his efforts to prevent the spread of rabies. The creation of the Board of Agriculture had brought a boost to Long's career in 1889. But opposition rose up strongly, when the Dog Muzzlers act, prompted the Laymen's League in Liverpool to contest the Church discipline bill. Long became increasingly unpopular in his constituency, and was advised to change seat. In 1895 he was also admitted to the Privy Council.

For the Khaki election Nov 1900, Long won Bristol South. With the ministerial shuffle in 1900, Long became President of the Local Government Board. Never and insider, Long worked closely with constituents on local issues showing "sensitivity to the wider needs of society".[7] His capacity for hard work revealed that he was also stubborn, short-tempered, with a choleric temperament; a stickler for the letter of the law.[8] He was frequently plagued by ill-health: neuralgia, arthritis, susceptible to colds and flu; waspish, and not charismatic, nor was he analytic or probimg, like Balfour.

In this role, he was criticised as too radical for his support of the Unemployed Workmen's Act 1905, which created an unemployment board to give work and training to the unemployed. In 1903, Long took a leading role as a spokesman for the protectionist wing of the party, advocating tariff reform and imperial preference alongside Joseph Chamberlain and his son Austen Chamberlain, which brought him into conflict with Charles Ritchie, Michael Hicks-Beach and others in the free-trade wing.[9] Long was a moderate within the protectionist ranks and became the go-between between the protectionists and the free-traders, increasing his prominence and popularity within the party. Perhaps the most significant achievement was the unification of the London water supply boards.

A most British Chief Secretary[edit]

Long was offered first Lord of the Admiralty in Lord Selborne's place, as he was sent to Governor-Generalship of South Africa. But he refused the promotion, advising the appointment of Lord Cawdor. Really Long wanted to remain in Local Government, but when George Wyndham resigned as Chief Secretary to Ireland, Balfour was faced with a crisis. Wyndham resigned on 5 March 1905, over what became known as the Wyndham-MacDonnell Imbroglio.

Sir Anthony MacDonnell was a successful Indian civil servant appointed as administrator in Dublin by Wyndham, on the strict understanding that the permanent post made MacDonnell's role a non-political position. MacDonnell was a Catholic from Mayo, whose appointment left unionists wondering if they had been betrayed by London. Nevertheless, having been an experienced and competent implementer of the Irish Land Act 1903, MacDonnell came to be widely seen as a force for moderation. Wyndham was occupied in London with cabinet duties, and so appreciated the implied need for permanent governance. Balfour had already considered Long for the post in January 1905, and to that end he consulted both Carson and John Atkinson, under pressure from Horace Plunkett and Gerald Balfour to continue the policy of moderate reform.

Long was reluctant to accept. He was frustrated and angered by Lord Dunraven's proposals, and the initiatives taken by MacDonnell were regarded by Long as being anti-Unionist. In Mid-March he was determined to bring Unionism back from the brink of extinction in Ireland. He arrived in Dublin on 15 March at dinner where he took the pragmatic view to work with MacDonnell.

Throughout March and April he saw no grounds for MacDonnell's dismissal. Yet, labouring closely with Unionists to discuss agrarian and non-agrarian crime, and discipline in the RIC, he continued to appease Unionist opinion. He appointed William Moore as Solicitor-general for Ireland, John Atkinson, as Lord of Appeal. Edward Saunderson, the Ulsterite member of the Orange Order, became a confidant and close friend. Patronage was usually dispensed by the Lord Lieutenant: this sparked a row with Lord Dudley, and a constitutional argument prompting an appeal to the Prime Minister. Long's motto of "patience and firmness" was designed to placate Irish Unionists at public meetings, speeches and tours of Ireland, made to reassure local community officials.

On 20 April 1905, Long made an important speech at Belfast emphasizing that he was a stickler for law and order, and the rule of law. But in the south and west, obdurate landlords refused land sales to tenantry leading to boycotts and cattle-driving. The damage done to unionist farms and farmers was frightening. MacDonnell urged compromise, but Long ignored him. The dispute with Lords Dudley and Dunraven dragged on into Aug 1905, with their attitude to Long's attempts at Unionist reform, and obedience to the law. On 25 May 1905, the issues were discussed in the Commons. Long wished to strengthen Unionism; but both Dudley and Long appealed to Balfour for adjudication. Balfour opined that the Chief Secretary was both in the Commons and in the cabinet. Dudley had to be content that the power of the Lords was waning. During the last quarter of 1905, Long advised the postponement of dissolution, as it would hit Unionists hard in "the Country" and would hand numerous electorates to radicals. He warned of the loss of seats of Bristol west and south. In December 1905, true to his word, he himself was defeated by 2,692 votes. Long continued to distrust 'Birmingham & Co' as he called Chamberlain's struggle for a policy of Tariff recognition, which was already driving the party away from the Free Trade north.

Nonetheless Long's parliamentary career was far from finished. He was nominated as Unionist candidate for South County Dublin 1906. This constituency he won by 1,343 votes. At this stage the Irish Unionist Party's leadership was still in the hands of his friend Edward Saunderson, who was far from energetic, and was described as "devoid of business capacity".[10]

The dispute with MacDonnell and Long was carried on in the pages of The Times - Long trying to galvanise Unionist opinion in both England and Ireland. Balfour, Jack Sandars (Balfour's private secretary), and Wyndham all thought Long had been duped by Unionism "where his vanity and hopes are concerned",[11] as easily manipulated. In October 1906, Saunderson died, and Long was chosen as the new Chairman of Irish Unionist Alliance - aimed at closer co-operation between northern and southern parties. Three months later, he was also elected as Chairman of Ulster Unionist Council.

In the Commons Long was an active opponent of Liberal social legislation. He founded a Budget Protest League to advance the cause of moderate tax changes. In the Lords the defeat of the 'people's budget' led to the constitutional crisis of 1911.

Long clashed with Edward Carson when he took a similarly equivocal position over the Parliament Bill of 1911, opposing the Bill but recommending acquiescence.[12] Strand between 1910 and 1918 and St George's between 1918 and 1921.

Political career, 1911–1921[edit]

When Balfour resigned as party leader in November 1911, Long, who had never been happy with his leadership style, was pre-eminent in the Conservative Party and one of the leading candidates to succeed him, the candidate of the 'country party'.[13] As early as 1900, Long had denounced Chamberlain, as the "Conservative Party...will not be lead by a bloody radical".[14] However, he was opposed by Austen Chamberlain, who was backed by the Liberal Unionists still under his father's leadership. Long feared 'the degradation' to the party that a divisive contest might split the protectionist majority of the Unionist coalition, so both candidates agreed to withdraw in favour of Andrew Bonar Law, the tertium quid, and a relatively unknown figure, on 12 November.[15]

The unification of the Liberal Unionist and Conservative parties at the Carlton Club in 1912, was for Long acknowledgement of the end of its domination by the country interest.[16] Long was always skeptical of coalition, and declared that it would not happen.[17] So with the formation of the wartime coalition government in May 1915, Long's awaited return to office at the Local Government Board was greeted by his surprise. Asquith resisted attempts by Unionists to install Long as Chief Secretary.[18] Long dealt with the plight of thousands of Belgian refugees. He was actively involved in undermining attempts by Lloyd George to negotiate a deal between Irish Nationalists and Unionists in July 1916[19] over introducing the suspended Home Rule Act 1914, publicly clashing with his arch-rival Edward Carson. He was accused of plotting to bring down Carson by jeopardising his agreement with the nationalist leader John Redmond that partition would be temporary. When Long wanted to alter the clause to permanent, Redmond abandoned further negotiations.[20] Carson, in a bitter riposte, said of Long "The worst of Walter Long is that he never knows what he wants, but is always intriguing to get it.[21] Austen Chamberlain, in 1911, was similarly critical of Long, saying he was "at the centre of every coterie of grumblers."[21]

Long and the Unionists wanted General Maxwell to have authority over the police, but Asquith finally gave the Chief Secretaryship to a civilian, Henry Duke.[22] With the fall of Asquith and the accession of the Lloyd George government in December 1916, Long had established himself as the cabinet's foremost authority on Irish policy. Chief Secretary Duke would have preferred to be Inspector-General; but Lloyd George, a natural home ruler, did not seem too happy with Long's brand of federated Unionism. Two allies of the Prime Minister, namely Carson and Lord Edward Cecil, supplied the most intransigent opposition to a united Ireland.

It was Long's policy on 16 April 1918 to promote the Conscription bill that would provoke the crisis for Irishness.[23] Duke opposed a policy of conscription without an offer of home rule, whereas Long wanted the former without the latter.[24] The crisis gave rise to the German Plot, and Long's pressure to act on intelligence against Sinn Feiners caused him to issue arrest warrants.[25]

Long was promoted to the Colonial Office, serving until January 1919, when he became First Lord of the Admiralty, a position in which he served until his retirement to the Lords in 1921. In March 1921, Bonar Law resigned as party leader due to ill-health. Austen Chamberlain finally succeeded him after a ten year wait. But Long too was getting tired and old, was 'kicked upstairs' with a peerage.

He was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Wiltshire in February 1920,[26] and was raised to the peerage as Viscount Long, of Wraxall in the County of Wiltshire in May 1921.[27]

Irish politics[edit]

"Wiltshire". Caricature by Spy published in Vanity Fair in 1886.

Long is best known, however, for his involvement with Irish Unionism. In March 1905, he became Chief Secretary for Ireland. Due to his Irish connections (both his wife and his mother were Irish), it was hoped that Long might be more acceptable to Irish Unionists than his predecessor, Wyndham, who had become increasingly unpopular.

Following the Unionists' fall from power in December 1905, Long became one of the leading opposition voices against the Liberals' plans for home rule in Ireland, helping to found the Ulster Defence League in 1907. He also served as leader of the Irish Unionist Parliamentary Party before being succeeded by his archrival Edward Carson.[28] Although he never openly supported the most militant Unionists, who were prepared to fight the Southern nationalists (and perhaps the British Army) to prevent home rule for Ireland, contemporary accounts indicate that he probably had prior knowledge of the Larne gunrunning.[29] At the same time, Long was less attached to the constitution of the UK than other Unionists, and opposed last-ditch resistance to the Parliament Act 1911.

However, from October 1919 on, he was, once again, largely concerned with Irish affairs, serving as the chair of the cabinet's Long Committee on Ireland. In this capacity, he was largely responsible for the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which followed the findings of the 1917–18 Irish Convention, and created separate home rule governments for Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland; the latter he endowed with wider powers than its southern counterpart. Whilst in southern and western Ireland, this was soon superseded by the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which gave the new Irish Free State a much greater share of independence, the measure survived as the basis for the government of Northern Ireland until 1972.


Lord Long married Lady Dorothy (Doreen) Blanche, daughter of Richard Boyle, 9th Earl of Cork, in 1878. They had two sons, including Brigadier General Walter Long, who was killed in action in 1917, and three daughters. He died at his home, Rood Ashton House in Wiltshire, in September 1924, aged 70, and was succeeded by his 13-year-old grandson Walter. Lady Long died in June 1938.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Sir C Petrie, "Walter Long and His Times", (London 1936), p.31-2. John Kendle, "Walter Long and Unionism", p.9.
  2. ^ Walter Long, "Memories", (London 1923), p.80-83.
  3. ^ Kendle, p.15.
  4. ^ The Times, 4 and 6 June 1892.
  5. ^ Ramsden, p.174
  6. ^ Kendle, p.18.
  7. ^ Kendle, p.20.
  8. ^ Kendle, p.21.
  9. ^ "The Great Fiscal Problem", The Evening Post, 11 June 1903.
  10. ^ J Mackay Wilson to Long, 2 Feb 1906, LP, BL, Add.MS.62410.
  11. ^ Sandars to Balfour, 7 Oct 1906, Balfour Papers, BL, Add. MS.49764, pp.226-9.
  12. ^ Alvin Jackson, "Long, Walter Hulme, first Viscount Long (1854–1924)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  13. ^ J Ramsden, "an appetite for Power: A History of the Conservative Party since 1880", Harper Collins, 1998, p.531
  14. ^ Ramsden, p.188
  15. ^ R Blake, "The Conservative Party from Peel to Thatcher", Fontana Press, 2nd edition, 1985, p.194
  16. ^ Ramsden, p.215
  17. ^ "there has been no coalition - personally I do not favour it, and I doubt its success", cited in Ramsden, p.230
  18. ^ C Townshend, "Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion", (London 2006), p.296.
  19. ^ Townshend, p.304.
  20. ^ Townshend, p.314.
  21. ^ a b Jackson p.193.
  22. ^ Townshend, p.324.
  23. ^ War Cabinet, 3 Apr 1918. NA CAB 23/14.
  24. ^ John Kendle, "Walter Long, Ireland and the Union 1915-1920", (Montreal 1992), p.164. Townshend, "The Republic: The Fight For Irish Independence" p.10.
  25. ^ Townshend, p.16.
  26. ^ The Times (Monday, 16 February 1920), p. 15.
  27. ^ The Times (Monday, 23 May 1921), p. 10; (Tuesday, 31 May 1921), p. 10.
  28. ^ Alvin Jackson, Home Rule: An Irish History 1800 — 2000 (Phoenix, 2004) p.193.
  29. ^ Captain F.E. Crawford, a leading figure in the gunrunning, recorded contemporaneously being called to meet Long and Bonar Law before he left to set up the event, and that they "wished me God's speed and a successful issue." Crawford's recollections, however, are often inaccurate. Long's Parliamentary Secretary, William Bull, was actively involved in the plot. Jackson p.154.



  • Long, Viscount Walter Hulme, Memories (London 1923)

Primary Sources[edit]

  • Report on the Political and Personal Papers of Walter Hume Long, 1st Viscount Long of Wraxall (1854-1924), Politician, 1880-1924. London. 1977. 
  • Bateman, John (2014). The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland. CUP. 
  • Green, Ewen (1995). Crisis of Conservatism, 1880-1914. Routledge. ISBN 041514339X. 
  • Hume, Alvin. Ulster Unionist politics: A Political Movement in the Era of Conflict and Change. 
  • Jackson, Alvin (2006). Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford. 
  • Jackson, Alvin (2004). Home Rule: An Irish History 1800 — 2000. Phoenix. ISBN 0753817675. 
  • Jenkins, Roy (1964). Asquith. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0002110210. 
  • Kendle, John (1992). Walter Long, Ireland, and the Union, 1905-1920. Toronto: McGill-Queen's University. ISBN 0773509089. 
  • Petrie, Sir Charles (1936). Walter Long and his Times. London: Hutchinson. 
  • Phillips, Gregory (1979). The Diehards. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. 

Secondary Sources[edit]

  • Brooks, Colin (1998). Fleet Street, Press Barons and Politics: The Journals of Collin Brooks, 1932-1940. CUP. 
  • Crosby, Gerda Richards (1957). Disarmament and Peace in British Politics, 1914-1919. Boston. p. 39. 
  • Gordon, Peter (2008). Politics and Society: The Journals of Lady Knightley of Fawsley 1885-1913. London. pp. 248, 254–55, 381, 510. ISBN 0901275611. 
  • Jalland, Martin (1980). The Liberals and Ireland: The Ulster Question in British Politics to 1914. Brighton. ISBN 0312483473. 
  • Marder, Arthur.J (2014). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: Volume V Victory and Aftermath January 1914 to June 1915. Seaforth. 
  • Otte, Richard; Otte, Thomas.G; Readman, Paul (2013). By-Elections in British Politics, 1832-1914. Boydell. pp. 128, 255, 268. 
  • Winegard, Timothy.C (2011). Indigenous Peoples of the British Dominions and the First World War. CUP. 

External links[edit]

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