[ Lord Curzon analyses the result of the 1924 General Election, the decline of Liberalism and the 'menace' of Socialism. ] Three Typed Letters Signed (all 'Curzon') to Sir Courtenay Mansel, on Liberalism, Socialism, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill

Lord Curzon [ George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston ] (1859-1925), Conservative statesman, Viceroy of India, 1899-1905 [ Sir Courtenay Cecil Mansel (1880-1933), Welsh politician ]
Publication details: 
All on House of Commons letterhead. 7 November 1924; 12 March 1926 ('Dictated 12th'); 22 June 1928 ('Dictated 21st')
SKU: 20632

Three excellent letters, highly revealing of Curzon's political position in the 1920s. The first, in the aftermath of the 1924 General Election, discussing at length the decline of Liberalism and the 'menace' of Socialism; the second regarding Lloyd George's 'land swindle' and the 'crushing blow' it has dealt the Liberal Party; the third explaining the reason for the impossibility of the Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill supporting Mansel (by now a Conservative) at the hustings in the 1928 Carmarthen by-election. The three items are in fair condition, lightly-aged and worn, with pinholes to the first and third. ONE (7 November 1924): 2pp., 8vo. A long and interesting letter, in which Curzon gives his view of the political landscape following the General Election of 1924, at which Mansel had lost his seat. (He had been elected Member of Parliament for Penryn and Falmouth at the previous general election.) The election (the third in two years) had been held little more than a week before, on 29 October 1924, as a result of a Common's defeat of Ramsay MacDonald's Labour minority government. Baldwin's Conservatives gained a parliamentary majority of 209; while Labour lost 40 seats. The election was a disaster for the Liberal Party from which it has never recovered: the party lost 118 of its 158 seats. Addressing himself to 'My dear Sir Courtenay' he states, after initial pleasantries: 'Apart from politics I was so sorry to see the result of your election. The Liberal party were fighting under a quite impossible handicap at this election, but the state of affairs is, I am sure, only temporary and you must not be down-hearted. I am not one of those who give vent to great war-whoops over the misfortune that has overtaken the Liberal Party. Nor do I want to see the identity of the Liberal Party merged either in the Socialist Party or in the Conservative Party, for with the policy of the Socialist Party what it is to-day, everyone must dread the horizontal line of cleavage which would inevitably result.' In the next paragraph he turns to his own Conservative Party, and their 'splendid victory', which he considers entails 'terrific responsibility': 'If we fail to “deliver the goods” the result will inevitably be a huge turn-over to Socialism at the next election.' The party must not 'rest on its oars and the strength of its great majority in the House of Commons', and must 'show by its work and enthusiasm that it deserves the splendid support extended to it at this election'. Curzon will himself be 'no party to a policy of reaction' and will not 'in any way attempt to set back the clock'. He would like to see the reform of the House of Lords, but this will only succeed with 'a measure of general agreement'. He has had a letter form 'Meyler' who is 'very depressed about Blackpool': 'The great thing however is not to give up hope. If the Liberal Party is well and wisely directed in this coming Parliament I believe it will have a great future before it.' He hits – albeit inadvertently – on the cause of the decline of Liberalism: 'The difference between Liberals and Conservatives is really only of a minor character by comparison with the difference between both our Parties and the Socialist Party'. In his view 'the moment the threat is made upon the King, Country, Constitution and Empire, that is the moment for all Constitutionalists to join hands in resolute opposition'. In the penultimate paragraph he refers to socialism as 'the menace', and 'a disease founded upon misery and discontent of the people making use of class warfare as their weapon'. The ideology is 'not indigenous to this country', but has 'more the characteristics of a foreign import – the only one which I would perhaps be prepared to tax completely out [of] existence!' TWO (12 March 1926, 'Dictated 12th'): 1p., 8vo. With a couple of autograph emendations. Curzon begins: 'L[loyd]. G[eorge].'s land swindle appears to have dealt a crushing blow at the Liberal Party. I hear from all quarters expressions of disgust on the part of life-long Liberals with the Socialist proposals of Mr. Lloyd George. To my mind it is a national disaster.' The 'misfortunes of the Liberal Party' have had 'the effect of leaving the country with no other alternative to the Conservative Party than that of Socialism.' In Curzon's assessment 'Lloyd George has definitely smashed the Liberal Party in the same way as he would have smashed the Conservative Party had the Coalition been allowed to continue; this is the view I took during the Coalition Parliament, and was the sole reason why I joined the so-called Die-Hard movement in a desperate attempt to counteract his machinations. [the last two words in autograph, replacing the typed 'all emanations']' He expresses doubt regarding the future: 'The Liberal Party in the House of Commons appears to be hopelessly divided within itself; there appears to be the Radical section led by Mr. Runciman and the Lloyd George section led by himself, and a further section led by Freddie Guest, to whom perhaps also Hilton Young may be said to be attached.' Curzon suggests that people like Mansel should attempt to 'get in touch with Hilton Young and Freddie Guest with the idea of seeing whether it is still possible to draw together the nucleus of more stable elements of Liberal opinion.' If this is not possible Liberals will have to join either the Conservatives or the Socialists, polarizing British politics. He concludes with a discussion of 'the Irish question', which appears to him to be 'at last more or less settled though the present Parliament in its serious circumstances have done nothing this Session than ladle out money to Ireland, North and South, alternatively'. THREE (22 June 1928, 'Dictated 21st'): At the time of writing Mansel was contesting Carmarthen in the Conservative interest in a by-election caused by the elevation to the peerage of Sir Alfred Mond. Curzon writes that he has 'now received the enclosed letter from Winston's private secretary'. Curzon has every sympathy with Mansel, 'but the Cabinet definitely decided some time ago that they did not intend to depart from the ancient custom, which is – as I explained to you – that Cabinet Ministers should not take part in By-Elections; the reason for this is that it is as a matter of fact undesirable for Cabinet Ministers to take part in By-Elections as a general rule; efforts are bound to be made to extort promises from them from the platform which it might be difficult to answer without sufficient notice.' He suggests that Mansel place himself in direct communication with 'the Chancellor of the Exchequer', 'as there seems to be a slight chance of his speaking for you; if he does do so, it will have to be on his own responsibility'. In a tight contest the Liberal candidate William Nathaniel Jones won by the narrow majority of 47 votes over Labour’s Daniel Hopkin. Mansel came bottom of the poll with just under 30% of the poll.