Arthur Balfour

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Arthur Balfour

Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, KG, OM, PC (25 July 184819 March 1930) was a British Conservative statesman and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1902 until 1905. The author of several influential works of philosophy, he was one of the most intellectual prime ministers of the 20th century. As Foreign Secretary he authored the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which supported the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine.


Backbench MP[edit]

  • He did not believe that any such transaction could be quoted from the annals of our political or Parliamentary history. It stood alone—he did not wish to use strong language, but he was going to say—it stood alone in its infamy.

President of the Local Government Board[edit]

  • To secure order, freedom, and safety, for the minority as well as for the majority of the Irish people, and to do so as far as possible, by the administration of equal laws, should be the first object of any Ministry responsible for the government of that country. But I shall resist to the uttermost any attempt to loosen the connection, which has subsisted so long between Ireland and Great Britain, under whatever disguises that attempt may be made.
    • Election address for the 1885 general election, quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1848–1905 (London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, 1936), p. 72
  • I shall offer uncompromising resistance to any measure which may throw obstacles in the way of the teaching of religion in elementary schools. I will not consent in the name of religious freedom, to banish religion from education; or, in the name of religious equality, to plunder the Church.
    • Election address for the 1885 general election, quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1848–1905 (London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, 1936), p. 72

Chief Secretary for Ireland[edit]

  • Cromwell failed because he relied solely upon repressive measures. That mistake I shall not imitate. I shall be as relentless as Cromwell in enforcing obedience to the law, but, at the same time, I shall be as radical as any reformer in redressing grievances, and especially in removing every cause of complaint in regard to the land. It is on the twofold aspect of my policy that I rely for success. Hitherto, English Governments have stood first upon one leg and then upon the other. They have either been all for repression, or all for reform. I am for both; repression as stern as Cromwell: reform as thorough as Mr Parnell or anyone else can desire.
    • Statement shortly after taking office (March 1887), quoted in Bernard Alderson, Arthur James Balfour: The Man and His Work (1903), p. 71
  • There are those who talk as if Irishmen were justified in disobeying the law because the law comes to them in a foreign garb. I see no reason why any local colour should be given to the Ten Commandments.
  • I have never had to go back beyond the year 1885 to prove that the Irish leaders desired to obtain what they call the freedom of their country by illegal and anarchic means.
    • Speech in Eridge Park near Tunbridge Wells (6 August 1888), quoted in The Times (7 August 1888), p. 1.
  • It is unfortunate, considering that enthusiasm moves the world, that so few enthusiasts can be trusted to speak the truth.
    • Letter to Mary Gladstone Drew (17 May 1891), in Some Hawarden Letters, 1878–1913, Written to Mrs. Drew (Miss Mary Gladstone) Before and After Her Marriage, chosen and arranged by Lisle March-Phillipps and Bertram Christian (London: Nisbet & Co., 1917), p. 248.
  • Those who look forward to a period of continuous and, so to speak, inevitable progress, are bound to assign some more solid reason for their convictions than a merely empirical survey of the surface lessons of history. ...Humanity, civilisation, progress itself, must have a tendency to mitigate the harsh methods by which Nature has wrought out the variety and the perfection of organic life.
    • A Fragment on Progress (1891)

Leader of the House of Commons[edit]

  • [T]he energies of our system will decay, the glory of the sun will be dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the race which has for a moment disturbed its solitude. Man will go down into the pit and all his thoughts will perish.
    • The Foundations of Belief: Being Notes Introductory to the Study of Theology (1895), p. 31
  • [I]t is Authority rather than Reason to which, in the main, we owe, not religion only, but ethics and politics; that it is Authority which supplies us with essential elements in the premises of science; that it is Authority rather than Reason which lays deep the foundations of social life; that it is Authority rather than Reason which cements its superstructure. And though it may seem to savour of paradox, it is yet no exaggeration to say, that if we would find the quality in which we most notably excel the brute creation, we should look for it, not so much in our faculty of convincing and being convinced by the exercise of reasoning, as in our capacity for influencing and being influenced through the action of Authority.
    • The Foundations of Belief: Being Notes Introductory to the Study of Theology (1895), pp. 237–238
  • In my judgment, the importance of the Crown in our Constitution is not a diminishing, but an increasing factor. It increases, and must increase with the development of those free, self-governing communities, those new commonwealths beyond the sea, who are constitutionally linked to us through the person of the Sovereign, the living symbol of Imperial unity.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (25 January 1901)

Prime Minister[edit]

  • ...the existing educational system of this country is chaotic, is ineffectual, is utterly behind the age, makes us the laughing-stock of every advanced nation in Europe and America, puts us behind not only our American cousins but the German and the Frenchman and the Italian, and that it was not consistent with the duty of an English Government, of a British Government, to allow that state of things longer to continue without an adequate remedy.
    • Speech in St James's Hall, Manchester (14 October 1902) defending the Education Act, quoted in The Times (15 October 1902), p. 5

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

  • ...the great Unionist party shall still control, whether in power or whether in opposition, the destinies of this great Empire.
    • Speech in Victoria Hall, Nottingham (15 January 1906), quoted in The Times (16 January 1906), p. 6
  • I hold that fiscal reform is, and must remain, the first constructive work of the Unionist party; That the objects of such reform are to secure more equal terms of competition for British trade and closer commercial union with the Colonies. ... the establishment of a moderate general tariff on manufactured goods, not imposed for the purpose of raising prices or giving artificial protection against legitimate competition, and the imposition of a small duty on foreign corn are not in principle objectionable, and should be adopted if shown to be necessary for the attainment of the ends in view or for the purposes of revenue.
    • Letter to Joseph Chamberlain (14 February 1906), quoted in The Times (15 February 1906), p. 9
  • ...we are now in a position which we have not been within the memory of living men. (“Shame.”) Now, what does this imply? Everything depends upon the Navy. (Hear, hear.) We exist as an Empire only on sufferance unless our Navy be supreme (hear, hear), and I for one, ladies and gentlemen, am not content to exist on sufferance. (Cheers.)
    • Speech in Hanley (4 January 1910), quoted in The Times (5 January 1910), p. 7
  • Go about at this moment if you will and consult the statesmen and diplomatists of the lesser Powers, and I am perfectly confident that you will find among them an absolute unanimity of opinion that a struggle sooner or later between this country and Germany is inevitable. I do not agree with them, but that is their opinion. They have watched with the closest interest...and they have come to the conclusion, I believe utterly wrongly, that we are not alive to the sense of our responsibilities, and that nothing can stir us to a recognition of our position, and that, therefore, we are predestined to succumb in some great contest, the occasion for which nobody can foresee, to a country which does face facts, which is alive to its responsibility, and which talks little and does much. (Cheers.) And so far has this depreciatory view of the virility of the manhood of Great Britain gone that I have known Germans, not connected with the Government, but men of position and character, men engaged in great affairs, who if you talk to them about the adoption of Tariff Reform by this country, actually say,—“Do you suppose we should ever allow Great Britain to adopt Tariff Reform?” (Cheers.) I do not press private and irresponsible conversations more than they ought to be pressed, but the idea of any man of education and character outside this country should have the audacity to say that Great Britain is not to settle its own taxation according to its own ideas, makes my blood boil. (Cheers.)
    • Speech in Hanley (4 January 1910), quoted in The Times (5 January 1910), p. 7
  • No Continental country has ever been able to understand the temper of the British people, but, while I give them a note of warning of our foreign critics, let me say what is more to the point to my own friends, that unless they bestir themselves Great Britain will be in a position of peril which it has not known in the memory of their fathers, their grandfathers, their great grandfathers, and if that position of peril should issue in some great catastrophe...this country will not again easily arise. (Hear, hear.) I do not believe there is going to be war between this country and any great foreign Power. (Hear, hear.) Heaven knows I do not desire it, but I do not believe it. Please remember the absolutely only way in which you can secure the peace which you all desire is that you shall be sure of victory if war takes place. (Cheers.)
    • Speech in Hanley (4 January 1910), quoted in The Times (5 January 1910), p. 7
  • It is necessary for us as a nation not merely to be organized for war but to be organized for peace, not only to be an armed nation while other nations are armed but to have our industry, our productive capacity organized while other nations are organizing their industry and their productive capacity. (Cheers.)
    • Speech in Hanley (4 January 1910), quoted in The Times (5 January 1910), p. 7
  • I cannot become another Sir Robert Peel in my Party.
    • Remark to David Lloyd George (October 1910) rejecting his proposals for a coalition government, quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1906–1930 (London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, 1936), p. 54
  • The advantage of the Referendum is this—that the issue is quite clear and quite precise. It is not one of the mixed issues inevitably put before the constituencies at a General Election. It is perfectly easy to say, when the Referendum is over, on what the Referendum was, whereas after a General Election every man says that it was upon the subject in which he is interested, if the election has gone in his favour. The Referendum has an enormous advantage. It does not involve a General Election; it does not involve all the personal bitterness inevitably involved in a contest between the two competitors for a seat; it does not carry with it a change of Government; and it does get a clear verdict from the people.
    • Speech in the Albert Hall, London (29 November 1910), quoted in The Times (30 November 1910), p. 9
  • The Government have tyrannically destroyed, so far as the Parliament Bill is concerned, every real power which the Second Chamber possesses. They have in their own fashion imitated Cromwell, without either his excuses or his genius.
    • Letter to Lord Newton (25 July 1911), quoted in The Times (26 July 1911), p. 8
  • This Government have lived on electoral bribes for six years. They have been floating helplessly down the revolutionary stream, which they have not controlled or guided in any way, snatching now at one electoral advantage and now at another electoral advantage. They have attacked the Crown, they have attacked the Second Chamber, they have bound the Representative Chamber hand and foot; and, having finished their bribes, they are now lapsing into the old Radical practice of destroying Churches, passing what they conceive to be judicious Reform Bills from the gerrymandering point of view, and generally comporting themselves as a Radical Party in difficulties always does comport itself. I do not believe the country will stand it much longer.
    • Speech to the executive committee of the City of London Conservative Association announcing his resignation as party leader (8 November 1911), quoted in The Times (9 November 1911), p. 10

Opposition MP[edit]

  • ...this Home Rule Bill is an experiment in Federalism of the most impossible, unexampled, and preposterous character.
    • Speech in Aberdeen (3 November 1913), quoted in The Times (4 November 1913), p. 10

First Lord of the Admiralty[edit]

  • It is not wisdom but folly to assume that all the chances are going to favour the enemy. ... It is admitted on all hands that the losses which would accompany voluntary retirement would be very heavy; I admit also that the losses which would accompany an involuntary retirement would be heavier still. But I suggest that, if we succeed in staying on [in Gallipoli], we shall suffer neither the kind of loss, and that in any case it may be worth while to risk the difference between the two, rather than desert, in the sight of East and West, an important strategic position, which has been gloriously captured, is gloriously held, and may perhaps never be dangerously threatened.
    • Memorandum on the Gallipoli campaign (19 November 1915), quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1906–1930 (London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, 1936), p. 114
  • Whether an independent Bohemia would be strong enough to hold her own, from a military as well as from a commercial point of view, against Teutonic domination—surrounded as she is at present entirely by German influence—I do not know.
    • Memorandum, 'The Peace Settlement in Europe' (November 1916), quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1906–1930 (London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, 1936), p. 324
  • I should fear that the new Poland would suffer from the diseases through which the old Poland perished; that it would be a theatre of perpetual intrigues between Germany and Russia; and that its existence, so far from promoting the cause of European peace, would be a perpetual occasion of European strife.
    • Memorandum, 'The Peace Settlement in Europe' (November 1916), quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1906–1930 (London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, 1936), p. 325

Foreign Secretary[edit]

  • His Majesty's Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
    • Letter to Lord Rothschild (2 November 1917); this letter became known as the Balfour Declaration, quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1906–1930 (London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, 1936), p. 171
  • Our enemies, who, I may parenthetically remark, are attempting to change their constitution, appear to have no notion that what we want is not so much a change of the form of the apparatus of government as a change in the hearts by which that government is to be directed and animated, and if we are to judge, and surely we may judge without unfairness, of a man's heart by what he does, I would ask you whether those who have made mankind pale with horror over their early barbarities and brutal excesses in Belgium show the least sign that four years of war has in any material respect improved their disposition. Brutes they were when they begun the war, and, as far as we can judge, brutes they remain at the present moment.
    • Speech to a lunch of the English-Speaking Union in the Criterion Restaurant (11 October 1918), quoted in The Times (12 October 1918), p. 2
  • I speak perhaps, with a warmth of indignation unbefitting a Foreign Secretary, but with the news of this outrage...I confess that I find it difficult to measure my epithets, for...this Irish packet boat, crammed as it always is with men, women, and children, in broad daylight was deliberately torpedoed by a German submarine. It was carrying no military stores. It was serving no military ends. It was pure barbarism, pure frightfulness, deliberately carried out. ... I cannot measure the wicked folly of the proceeding of which they have been guilty. ... I wish I could think that these atrocious crimes were the crimes of a small dominant military caste. I agree that the direction of policy, the direction of national policy, may be in the hands of a small caste, but it is incredible that crimes like these, perpetrated in the light of day, known to all mankind, condemned from one end of the civilized world to the other, should go on being repeated month after month of four years of embittered warfare if it did not commend itself to the population which commits them.
    • Speech to a lunch of the English-Speaking Union in the Criterion Restaurant (11 October 1918) after the sinking of the RMS Leinster, quoted in The Times (12 October 1918), p. 2
  • The case which the French present to us with regard to the Left Bank of the Rhine is very forcible, but very one-sided. They draw a lurid picture of future Franco-German relations. They assume that the German population will always far outnumber the French; that as soon as the first shock of defeat has passed away, Germany will organise herself for revenge; that all our attempts to limit armaments will be unsuccessful; that the League of Nations will be impotent; and, consequently, that the invasion of France, which was fully accomplished in 1870, and partially accomplished in the recent War, will be renewed with every prospect of success.
    • Memorandum, 'France's Fear of German Aggression' (28 March 1919) written for the Paris Peace Conference, quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1906–1930 (London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, 1936), p. 204.
  • If Germany is going again to be a great armed camp, filled with a population about twice as great as that of any State in Europe; and if she is going again to pursue a policy of world domination, it will no doubt tax all the statesmanship of the rest of the world to prevent a repetition of the calamities from which we have been suffering. But the only radical cure for this is a change in the international system of the world—a change which French statesmen are doing nothing to promote, and the very possibility of which many of them regard with ill-concealed derision. They may be right; but if they are, it is quite certain that no manipulation of the Rhine frontier is going to make France anything more than a second-rate Power, trembling at the nod of its great neighbours in the East, and depending from day to day on the changes and chances of a shifting diplomacy and uncertain alliances.
    • Memorandum, 'France's Fear of German Aggression' (28 March 1919), quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1906–1930 (London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, 1936), pp. 204–205.

Lord President of the Council[edit]

  • The League of Nations has had many critics, but I am not aware that, among the multitude of criticisms that have been offered, any suggestion makes its appearance for finding a substitute for that organization which we desire to see entrusted, I admit, with the great task of preserving the peace of the world. Those who criticize the League of Nations have no substitute for the League of Nations. They are prepared, it seems, for the civilized world to go on in the future, as it has gone on in the past, oscillating between those scenes of violence and sanguinary disturbance and the intervals in which great and ambitious nations pile up their armaments for a new effort. To me such an ideal appears to be absolutely intolerable, and I am not prepared, seriously, to discuss with any man what the future of the international relations should be unless he is prepared either to accept in some form or another the League of Nations, or to tell me what substitute he proposes for it.
  • Nationality was valuable, in so far as it was a centripetal principle, in so far as it produced closer cooperation between members of the human race. It had the other side, and it must not be put on an absurd pedestal. It was not to any politician's or statesman's credit that he worked on the emotions of nationality to produce division; the proper use of the feeling of nationality was to produce union.
    • Speech to a meeting of the Congress of Philosophy at Oxford (27 September 1920), quoted in The Times (28 September 1920), p. 12
  • I feel, as time goes on, not that the war has produced fewer evils than I feared at the time, for the conviction grows on me that the evils are unmeasured. As year succeeds year we shall more and more see how great was the calamity, how inexplicable the crime which brought that war on humanity. There was one bright side to it. The horrors of that war did at least persuade mankind that some great effort must be made to prevent its repetition. Those who with the facile scepticism or easy cynicism of the arm-chair deride the efforts—humble, imperfect, but honest which are being made all the world over to render the repetition of those horrors impossible must be careful that they do not make themselves shares in the great crime from which we have already so bitterly suffered.
    • Speech (1921), quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1906–1930 (1936), p. 230
  • Suppose [he said to the Americans] that it was a familiar thought in your minds that there never was at any moment of the year within the limits of your State more than seven weeks food for the population, and that that food had to be replenished by overseas communication...Then you will understand why every citizen of the British Empire, whether he comes from the far Dominions of the Pacific, or the small island in the North Sea, can never forget...that without sea communication he, and the Empire to which he belongs, would perish.
    • Speech to the second meeting of the Washington Naval Conference (1921), quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1906–1930 (1936), p. 236
  • Fairly well, but it is like talking to a lot of tombstones.
    • Answer to Lord Riddell after he asked him how he liked speaking in the House of Lords (19 July 1922), quoted in Lord Riddell's Intimate Diary Of The Peace Conference And After 1918–1923 (1933), p. 379


  • As you know many people have dreamed dreams since the War ended. It's partly the fault of the British nation—and of the Americans; we can't exonerate them from blame either—that this idea of “representative government” has got into the heads of nations who haven't the smallest notion of what its basis must be. ... I doubt if you would find it written in any book on the British Constitution that the whole essence of British Parliamentary government lies in the intention to make the thing Work. We take that for granted. We have spent hundreds of years in elaborating a system that rests on that alone. It is so deep in us that we have lost sight of it. But it is not so obvious to others. These peoples—Indians, Egyptians, and so on—study our learning. They read our history, our philosophy, and politics. They learn about our Parliamentary methods of obstruction, but nobody explains to them that when it comes to the point, all our Parliamentary parties are determined that the machinery shan't stop. “The king's government must go on,” as the Duke of Wellington said. But their idea is that the function of opposition is to stop the machine. Nothing easier of course, but hopeless.
    • Conversation (25 April 1925), quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1906–1930 (London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, 1936), p. 267

Lord President of the Council[edit]

  • The General Strike has taught the working classes more in four days than years of talking could have done.
    • Speech (7 May 1926), reported in The Observer (14 November 1926), quoted in Robert Andrews, The New Penguin Dictionary of Modern Quotations (2003)
  • We [Britain and the Dominions] stand on an equality, and if some foreign critics are disposed to say that standing on an equality means that we are bound to separate in a short time my view is precisely the contrary. My view most strongly is that the British Empire is now a more united organism than it has ever been before, that that organism is held together far more effectually by the broad loyalties, by the common feelings and interests—in many cases, of history—and by devotion to great world ideals of peace and freedom. A common interest in loyalty, in freedom, in ideals—that is the bond of Empire. If that is not enough, nothing else is enough.
  • Biography should be written by an acute enemy.
    • Observer (20 January 1927)
  • I am a Scotsman addressing Scotsmen, and I feel, therefore, peculiarly qualified to speak on this subject. I absolutely refuse to allow any man, be he English or be he Scottish, to rob me of my share in Magna Charta, or Shakespeare, because of Bannockburn or Flodden.
    • Speech to the University of Edinburgh (26 January 1927), quoted in The Times (27 January 1927), p. 14
  • Our whole political machinery presupposes a people so fundamentally at one that they can safely afford to bicker.
  • It is proof of the most vital principle of the English Constitution, which no foreigner can understand, that when they are brought together in the public interest, they never get deflected from the main issue before them by the memory of ancient conflict or the impossibility of working together. That is the great secret of the paradox that in this country alone will you see the perfection of Parliamentary Government carried to the pitch it has been.
    • Speech in the Speaker's Courtyard of Parliament for his 80th birthday ceremony (25 July 1928), quoted in The Times (26 July 1928), p. 16
  • Parliament is the centre of the British Empire. It is the responsibility of the members of Parliament, to whatever party they belong, to see that the tradition which has insensibly grown up, which is not a product of this or that constitution-monger, but which is the result of the unthought-out efforts for the public good of the various constituent individuals who from generation to generation, either in this House or in the other, had the conduct of public affairs is continued. It is their action which has made Great Britain what it is, and has founded all over the world institutions modelled upon ours and showing that, whether the British Constitution be or be not the best Constitution in the world for all kinds and sorts of men, it is undoubtedly the best Constitution for people of British origin, British tradition, British hopes, and British ideals. That is why I am consoled by the gradual rising of new generations as old generations vanish.
    • Speech in the Speaker's Courtyard of Parliament for his 80th birthday ceremony (25 July 1928), quoted in The Times (26 July 1928), p. 16
  • I am 80. I cannot take much more part in public affairs, but I rejoice to think I see growing up younger generations, one by one, who instinctively follow the great example of their forefathers and are predestined with undiminished lustre to carry to future ages the glories of the British Empire.
    • Speech in the Speaker's Courtyard of Parliament for his 80th birthday ceremony (25 July 1928), quoted in The Times (26 July 1928), p. 16
  • The Irish had owed their success to crime. Winston practically admitted it. They had defied British rule,—and British rulers had given in to them. How could such a state of things be said to fit in with the scheme of the Empire?
    • Remarks after the publication of Winston Churchill's book The Aftermath (1929), quoted in Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, First Earl of Balfour, K.G., O.M., F.R.S., Etc. 1906–1930 (London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd, 1936), p. 248

Theism and humanism [edit]

  • Few persons are prevented from thinking themselves right by the reflection that, if they be right, the rest of the world is wrong.
  • I speak of God, I mean something other than an Identity wherein all differences vanish, or a Unity which includes but does not transcend the differences which it somehow holds in solution. I mean a God whom men can love, a God to whom men can pray, who takes sides, who has purposes and preferences, whose attributes, howsoever conceived, leave unimpaired the possibility of a personal relation between Himself and those whom He has created.
  • Apart from life and thought, there is no reason to regard one form of material distribution as in any respect superior to another. A solar system may be more interesting than its parent nebula ; it may be more beautiful. But if there be none to unravel its intricacies or admire its splendours, in what respect is it better ? Its constituent atoms are more definitely grouped, the groups move in assignable orbits ; but why should the process by which these results have been achieved be regarded as other than one of purposeless change super-induced upon meaningless uniformity?
  • Everything that happened, good or bad, would subtract something from the lessening store of useful energy, till a time arrived when nothing could happen any more, and the universe, frozen into eternal repose, would for ever be as if it were not. /.../ The physical course of nature does not merely fail to indicate design, it seems loudly to proclaim its absence.
  • Theory of selection /.../ leaves untouched all that can be inferred from the existence of the conditions which make organic evolution possible: matter which lives, multiplies, and varies ; an environment which possesses the marvellously complex constitution required to make these processes possible. /.../ it cannot produce either the original environment or the original living matter. These must be due either to luck or to contrivance; and, if they be due to luck, the luck (we must own) is great. How great we cannot say.
  • We now know too much about matter to be materialists. The very essence of the physical order of things is that it creates nothing new. Change is never more than a redistribution of that which never changes. But sensibility belongs to the world of consciousness, not to the world of matter.
  • Whereas reasons may, and usually do, figure among the proximate causes of belief, and thus play a part in both kinds of series (cognitive and causal), it is always possible to trace back the causal series to a point where every trace of rationality vanishes ; where we are left face to face with conditions of beliefs social, physiological, and physical— which, considered in themselves, are quite a-logical in their character. /.../ on any merely naturalistic hypothesis, the rational elements in the causal series lie always on the surface. Penetrate but a short way down, and they are found no more.
  • A distinguished agnostic once observed that in these days Christianity was not refuted, it was explained. Doubtless the difference between the two operations was, in his view, a matter rather of form than of substance. That which was once explained needed, he thought, no further refutation. And certainly we are all made happy when a belief, which seems to us obviously absurd, is shown nevertheless to be natural in those who hold it. But we must be careful. True beliefs are effects no less than false. In this respect magic and mathematics are on a level. Both demand scientific explanation ; both are susceptible of it. Manifestly, then, we cannot admit that explanation may be treated as a kind of refutation. /.../ This way lies universal scepticism. Thus would all intellectual values be utterly destroyed.
  • On questions of taste there is notoriously the widest divergence of opinion./.../ if, from a survival point of view, one taste be as good as another, it is not the varieties in taste which should cause surprise so much as the uniformities. To be sure, the uniformities have often no deep aesthetic roots. They represent /.../ tendencies to agreement, which govern our social ritual, and thereby make social life possible.
  • In art, origin and value cannot be treated as independent. Those who enjoy poetry and painting must be at least dimly aware of a poet beyond the poem and a painter beyond the picture. If by some unimaginable process works of beauty could be produced by machinery, as a symmetrical colour pattern is produced by a kaleidoscope, we might think them beautiful till we knew their origin, after which we should be rather disposed to describe them as ingenious. And this is not, I think, because we are unable to estimate works of art as they are in themselves, not because we must needs buttress up our opinions by extraneous and irrevelant considerations ; but rather because a work of art requires an artist. not merely in the order of natural causation, but as a matter of a-sthetie necessity. It conveys a message which is valueless to the recipient, unless it be understood by the sender. It must be expressive.
  • Romantic love goes far beyond race requirements. From this point of view it is as useless as aesthetic emotion itself. And, like aesthetic emotion of the profounder sort, it is rarely satisfied with the definite, the limited, and the immediate. It ever reaches out towards an unrealised infinity. It cannot rest content with the prose of mere fact. It sees visions and dreams dreams which to an unsympathetic world seem no better than amiable follies. Is it from sources like these—the illusions of love and the enthusiasms of ignorance—that we propose to supplement the world-outlook provided for us by sober sense and scientific observation ?
    Yet why not ? Here we have values which by supposition we are reluctant to lose. Neither scientific observation nor sober sense can preserve them. It is surely permissible to ask what will.
  • There is always something about our feeling for beautiful things which can neither be described nor communicated, which is unshared and unshareable.
  • Our admiration for natural beauty /.../ cares not to understand either the physical theories which explain what it admires, or the psychological theories which explain its admiration. It does not deny the truth of the first, nor (within due limits) the sufficiency of the second. But it requires more. It feels itself belittled unless conscious purpose can be found somewhere in its pedigree. Physics and psycho-physics, by themselves, suffice not. It longs to regard beauty as a revelation—a revelation from spirit to spirit, not from one kind of atomic agitation to the "psychic" accompaniment of another. On this condition only can its highest values be maintained.'
  • Men's wishes are not always vain, nor is every life too brief to satisfy its possessor. Only when we attempt, from the point of view permitted by physics and biology, to sum up the possibilities of collective human endeavour, do we fully realise the "vanity of vanities" proclaimed by the Preacher.
  • Logic always seems to be telling us, in language quite unnecessarily technical, what we understood much better before it was explained.


Quotes about Balfour[edit]

  • Tall, slim and good-looking, like Asquith he was much admired. His intimate friends were few in number, and it is just possible that he didn't believe in anything or anybody. Asquith described him as a man of “superficial charm”. Others considered that his outstanding quality was his political cunning. He was, in fact, a crafty man. During the peace conference in Paris in 1919 Clemenceau used to speak of him as ‘cette vieille fille’.
  • One key to the understanding of Arthur Balfour was his conversation. Unhesitatingly I should put him down as the best talker I have ever known, one whose talk was not a brilliant monologue or a string of epigrams, but a communal effort which quickened and elevated the whole discussion and brought out the best of other people. He would take the hesitating remark of a shy man and discover in it unexpected possibilities, would probe it and expand it until its author felt that he had really made some contribution to human wisdom.
    • John Buchan, Memory Hold-the-Door (1940), chapter VI, section V
  • The doubts that Mr. Balfour expressed nearly thirty years ago, in an Address delivered in Glasgow, have not, so far, been answered. And it is probable that many people, to whom six years ago the notion of a sudden decline or break-up of our western civilisation, as a result not of cosmic forces but of its own development, would have appeared almost fantastic, will feel much less confident to-day, notwithstanding the fact that the leading nations of the world have instituted a league of peoples for the prevention of war, the measure to which so many high priests of Progress have looked forward as meaning a long stride forward on the road to Utopia.
    • J. B. Bury, The Idea of Progress: An Inquiry Into Its Origin and Growth (1921) referring to Balfour's A Fragment on Progress (1891)
  • The game of international politics...gave free rein to his power of detached analysis. He was not always correct in his anticipations – he was slow, for instance, to recognize the German danger, seeing no rational conflict of interest, and persisted, even after the conclusion of the entente cordiale (and still in the 1920s), in regarding France as the most likely enemy. But the quality and range of his strategic memoranda are deeply impressive. It is no wonder that Asquith called him to the Committee of Imperial Defence in 1912, and to the War Council in 1914–15, on a non-party basis, as the most expert and penetrating mind available.
    • John Campbell, 'A hard man at the little game of politics', The Times (2 May 1985), p. 11
  • [T]he real mystery... [was] The hopeless failure to make good his leadership in spite of every quality & circumstance which should have ensured its success. He stepped into it by an undisputed and acclaimed succession: he was the most popular man in the House of Commons of his generation; brilliant abilities;—a unique charm;—high character. And then—crash! ... It is as if the gift of leadership was something quite distinct from its component elements,—a kind of 6th sense which my father [Lord Salisbury] had & Arthur was without, & which it is impossible to analyse.
    • Lady Gwendolen Cecil to Maud Selborne (18 November 1936), quoted in Hugh Cecil, 'Introduction', Salisbury–Balfour Correspondence, ed. Robin Harcourt Williams (1988), pp. xxiii-xxiv
  • Winston said, that if you wanted nothing done, AJB [Balfour] was undoubtedly the best man for the task. There was no one to equal him.
    • Winston Churchill's remarks to George Riddell, as recorded in Riddell's diary (15 September 1921), quoted in The Riddell Diaries 1908–1923, ed. J. M. McEwen (1986), p. 353
  • The Economic Notes on Insular Free Trade is one of the most remarkable scientific deliverances ever made by a Prime Minister in office. It wears well and bears re-reading. I think that economists to-day would treat Balfour's doubts, hesitations, vague sensing of troubles to come, polite wonder whether unqualified laisser-faire is quite certainly always for the best, with more respect, even if not with more sympathy, than they did then.
  • I could work with Balfour, but the trouble with him is his underlying sense of class superiority. He is kind and courteous, but you feel that he feels that he is a member of a superior class. This makes him unpopular with his own people like Bonar Law, Carson, etc.
    • David Lloyd George's remarks to George Riddell, as recorded in Riddell's diary (30 October 1908), quoted in The Riddell Diaries 1908–1923, ed. J. M. McEwen (1986), p. 21
  • From 1887 up to the end of his Premiership in 1905, he was the most skilful of all the House of Commons speakers of his day, with the exception of...Gladstone. ... [H]e was a brave man—and a fearless one. In comparatively small things he shrank from conclusions and thus gave a false impression of irresolution, but on fundamental issues he never flinched or meandered. He was through and through a patriot and never lost confidence in the invincibility of his country...Clearly he was not the man to stimulate and organise the activity of the Navy in a crisis. But he was an ideal man for the Foreign Office and to assist the Cabinet on big issues. His contributions in the War and afterwards in the making of Peace were of the highest order. In personal charm he was easily first among all the statesmen with whom I came in contact. As to his intellectual gifts I doubt whether I ever met so illuminating an intelligence inside the Council Chamber.
  • [Balfour Declaration is] the root of the suffering of the Palestinian people and paved the way for the violation of their rights and the confiscation of their land and capabilities...the British government and everyone who participated in the implementation of this permit, [have responsibility over] the massacres and tragedies that the Palestinian people were subjected to, especially the crime of uprooting and displacing them, which is ongoing.
  • Balfour's favourite weapon was the rapier, with no button on, without prejudice to a strong broadsword when it was wanted... His eye for the construction of dilemmas was incomparable, and... [h]e revelled in carrying logic all its length, and was not always above urging a weak point as if it were a strong one. Though polished and high-bred in air, he unceremoniously applied Dr. Johnson's cogent principle that to treat your adversary with respect is to give him an advantage to which he is not entitled. Of intellectual satire he was a master—when he took the trouble; for the moral irony that leaves a wound he happily had no taste, any more than he had a taste for that extremity in temper and language which was rather the fashion of leading men at the time. I still can find no better parallel to him than Macaulay's account of Halifax: "His understanding was keen, sceptical, inexhaustibly fertile in distinctions and objections, his taste refined, his sense of the ludicrous exquisite, his temper placid and forgiving, but fastidious, and by no means prone either to malevolence or to enthusiastic admiration."
    • John Morley, Recollections, Volume I (1917), pp. 226-227
  • It was not surprising that, in Burke's famous language about Charles Townshend, he became the delight and ornament of his party in the country, and the charm of every private society which he honoured with his presence, and clouds of incense daily rose about him from the prodigal superstition of innumerable admirers.
  • It reminds me of Arthur Balfour when Brockdorff-Rantzau refused to stand when he was handed the Treaty [of Versailles]. “Did he remain seated?” said someone to Balfour. “I did not notice, I do not stare at a gentleman in distress.”
    • Harold Nicolson, diary (10 June 1941), quoted in Harold Nicolson, Diaries and Letters, 1939–1945, ed. Nigel Nicolson (1967), pp. 171–172
  • He had a pervading charm that one felt as soon as he entered the room. There was nothing conscious about it. He did not, as it were, turn it on at will, as some charming people do. Indeed, he probably neither knew nor cared what other people felt about him. In that sense he was extremely aristocratic. But, at any rate, as an old man, he seemed to bless whatever company he was in.
    • 5th Marquess of Salisbury, 'Arthur Balfour, A Memoir', quoted in Hugh Cecil, 'Introduction', Salisbury–Balfour Correspondence, ed. Robin Harcourt Williams (1988), p. xvi
  • Breakfasted with Lloyd George. ... He said that...Balfour and Chamberlain were both now practically Liberals. Balfour, for instance, was in matters of foreign policy far more Liberal than Grey.
    • C. P. Scott, diary (2 March 1922), quoted in The Political Diaries of C. P. Scott, 1911–1928, ed. Trevor Wilson (1970), p. 421
  • [David Lloyd George said that] Balfour again has become a Liberal in his old age—like Gladstone.
    • C. P. Scott, diary (23 October 1922), quoted in The Political Diaries of C. P. Scott, 1911–1928, ed. Trevor Wilson (1970), p. 429

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikisource has original works by or about: