Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax

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Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax

Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax (16 April 188123 December 1959), known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and as The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was a British Conservative politician. He is often regarded as one of the architects of appeasement prior to World War II. During the period he held several ministerial posts in the cabinet, most notably as Foreign Secretary at the time of Munich in 1938. He succeeded Lord Reading as Viceroy of India in April 1926, a post he held until 1931.

Quotes[edit]

Backbench MP[edit]

  • Instead of deluding public opinion with a notion that a sufficient application of force will provide a remedy, a wiser course would be to set about taking such steps as may be the means of recovering that consent without which society in Ireland cannot exist...[an offer should be made to the Irish] conceived on the most generous lines.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Irish insurgency after the Great War, quoted in Lord Birkenhead, Halifax (Hamish Hamilton, 1965), pp. 121-122

Viceroy of India[edit]

  • In the name of Indian national life, in the name of religion, I appeal to all in each of the two countries who hold position...let them begin each in their own community to work untiringly towards this end: boldly to repudiate feelings of hatred and intolerance, actively to condemn and suppress acts of violence and aggression, earnestly to strive to exorcise suspicions...I appeal in the name of national life because communal tension is eating into it as a canker...I appeal in the name of religion because I can appeal to nothing nobler, and because religion is the language of the soul, and it is a change of soul that India needs today.
    • Speech as Viceroy of India (1926), quoted in Birkenhead, Halifax (Hamish Hamilton, 1965), pp. 223-234
  • Though I am, as you know, a pacifist by nature, I am not disposed to go to all lengths to meet people who seem to be behaving with utter unreason.
    • Letter to William Wedgwood Benn, quoted in Birkenhead, Halifax (Hamish Hamilton, 1965), p. 275
  • I am authorized on behalf of His Majesty's Government to state clearly that in their judgment it is implicit in the declaration of 1917 that the natural issue of India's constitutional progress, as there contemplated, is the attainment of Dominion status.
    • Statement in a Gazette of India Extraordinary (31 October 1929), quoted in The Times (1 November 1929), p. 16
  • [It is] a question of personal appeal and conviction, rather than any argument. The cards I fancy are sympathy, understanding of his hopes, suspicions and disappointments, but above all, striving to convey to him, through what one says, a real echo of the sincerity that pervaded your doings in London.
    • Letter (16 February 1931), quoted in Birkenhead, Halifax (Hamish Hamilton, 1965), p. 296

Lord Privy Seal[edit]

  • [The Hoare-Laval proposals] were not so frightfully different from those put forward by the Committee of Five [of the League of Nations]. But the latter were of respectable parentage: and the Paris ones were too much like the off-the-stage arrangements of nineteenth-century diplomacy.
    • In 1935. Quoted in Keith Feiling, A Life of Neville Chamberlain (Macmillan, 1970), p. 275

Lord President of the Council[edit]

  • Nationalism and Racialism is a powerful force but I can't feel that it's either unnatural or immoral! I cannot myself doubt that these fellows are genuine haters of Communism, etc.! And I daresay if we were in their position we might feel the same!
    • Letter to Stanley Baldwin (15 November 1937), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (Phoenix, 1997), p. 282

Foreign Secretary[edit]

  • Nothing was more likely to aggravate the difficulties of the present situation than any suggestions that our ultimate objective was to unite France, Italy and ourselves against Germany.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet (15 March 1938)
  • ...we are all alike determined to throw all our weight on the side of securing world peace through respect for law based on just settlements. We have no use for a world society in which law would be expected to be the obedient handmaid of lawless force; and we are all resolved to preserve British rights and liberties against attack, from whatever quarter within or without the State these may come.
  • ...a great mistake would be made abroad if it was ever thought that our domestic controversies upon the day-to-day conduct of foreign policy would in the least degree affect the primary instinct of our people to stand solidly together in any real emergency. Both our history and our character had given us a sense of community which, while enabling us to face facts and make peaceful changes, protected us from being revolutionary.
    • Speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (21 June 1938), quoted in The Times (22 June 1938), p. 18
  • ...one of the principal lessons of these events is that the diplomacy of any nation can only be commensurate with its strength, and that if we desire this country to exercise its full influence in world affairs, the first thing that we have to do is to ensure that it is in all ways fully and rapidly equipped to do so.
  • In a time of crisis, with grave questions demanding urgent answer at every moment, no body of men would dare claim to be judged infallible. There was indeed no clear way, but almost always a hideous choice of evils. I can only know, for myself, that my mind will be at rest for having taken no decision inconsistent with what on all the facts I felt right.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (3 October 1938) on the Munich Agreement
  • A year ago we had undertaken no specific commitments on the Continent of Europe, beyond those which had then existed. ... To-day we are bound by new agreements for mutual defence with Poland and Turkey; we have guaranteed assistance to Greece and Rumania against aggression. ... We know that, if the security and independence of other countries are to disappear, our own security and our own independence will be gravely threatened. We know that if international law and order is to be preserved, we must be prepared to fight in its defence.
    • Speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (29 June 1939), quoted in The Times (30 June 1939), p. 9
  • What is also now fully and universally accepted in this country, but what may not even yet be as well understood elsewhere, is that, in the event of further aggression, we are resolved to use at once the whole of our strength in fulfilment of our pledges to resist it.
    • Speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (29 June 1939), quoted in The Times (30 June 1939), p. 9
  • At this moment the doctrine of force bars the way to settlement and fills the world with envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. But if the doctrine of force were once abandoned, so that the fear of war that stalks the world was lifted, all outstanding questions would become easier to solve.
    • Speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (29 June 1939), quoted in The Times (30 June 1939), p. 9
  • The threat of military force is holding the world to ransom, and our immediate task is...to resist aggression.
    • Speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (29 June 1939), quoted in The Times (30 June 1939), p. 9
  • The racial doctrine, as interpreted in the Nazi creed, may be, and in my view is, sheer primitive nonsense; and we are no more prepared to admit German superiority of race than we are concerned to assert our own. ... when this doctrine is invoked in justification of the oppression of other races it becomes a crime against humanity.
    • Speech to the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford (27 February 1940), quoted in The Times (28 February 1940), p. 10
  • Not only does it deny the corporate claim to liberty of men and women organized in national societies, but it refuses the much more fundamental claim of men and women to the free expression of human personality, which rests upon the eternal value of every human soul. True pride of race may be tested by the behaviour of its possessors towards their own fellow citizens and towards others. It will forbid conduct to individuals of which they should be ashamed in their private lives. It is thus evidently something far removed from the ideal of a race which by the German philosophy of to-day is called to stamp out the civilization of another. Between these two conceptions there is a great gulf fixed. ... Until these false creeds are abjured, and replaced by a wider toleration, they must continue to excite resistance. The future of humanity must not be left in the hands of those who would imprison and enslave it.
    • Speech to the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford (27 February 1940), quoted in The Times (28 February 1940), p. 10
  • ...the broad record of the British race stands to be judged on facts that are incontestable. It is the fact that during the nineteenth century, when the power of this country was unchallenged, there was no nation in Europe that felt for that reason insecure, or that did not recognize our power to be an instrument of peace. The Pax Britannica has been no empty or self-righteous boast of purpose. It is the fact too that in every corner of the world where men of British race have established influence, there by immutable law of nature you find established the seed and plant of liberty. It is the trail by which is marked their progress, interpreted to all by the standards of good faith, respect for law, and equal justice. Most truly, therefore, of our people was it said: “Their country's cause is the high cause of freedom and honour. That fairest earthly fame, the fame of freedom, is inseparable from the names of Albion, Britain, England.”
    • Speech to the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford (27 February 1940), quoted in The Times (28 February 1940), p. 10
  • My message to you to-day...is to be so proud of the race to which you belong that you will be as jealous of its honour as you are of its safety, and that you will fight for both with equal determination. The struggle will be arduous, it may be long, and it will certainly demand of our nation that it should withhold nothing that may contribute to our strength.
    • Speech to the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford (27 February 1940), quoted in The Times (28 February 1940), p. 10
  • ...we had to face the fact that it was not so much now a question of imposing a complete defeat on Germany but of safeguarding the independence of our own Empire and if possible that of France.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet (26 May 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (Phoenix, 1997), p. 216
  • ...if he [Mussolini] would use his influence [on Hitler] to get reasonable terms which did not menace our independence and offered a prospect of a just and durable settlement of Europe we would try and meet his own claims. ... If the terms were impossible we could always reject them.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet (26 May 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (Phoenix, 1997), pp. 216–217
  • ...if we got to the point of discussing the terms of a general settlement and found that we could obtain terms which did not postulate the destruction of our independence, we should be foolish if we did not accept them.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet (26 May 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (Phoenix, 1997), p. 218
  • [Churchill's plan] meant that the future of the country turned on whether the enemy's bombs happened to hit our aircraft factories. ... he was prepared to take that risk if our independence was at stake; but if it was not at stake he would think it right to accept an offer which would save the country from avoidable disaster.
    • Remarks to the Cabinet (27 May 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (Phoenix, 1997), p. 220
  • ...we should be prepared to say that we were prepared to fight to the death for our independence, but that, provided this could be secured, there were certain concessions that we were prepared to make to Italy.
    • Remarks to the War Cabinet (28 May 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (Phoenix, 1997), p. 224
  • If only we could find out for certain where Hitler and Mussolini are meeting tomorrow, and get one well-placed bomb, then the world might really take on a different appearance.
    • Diary (17 June 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (Phoenix, 1997), p. 237
  • Bad faith, cruelty, crime become right by the fact that it is he, Hitler, who ordains them. That is the fundamental challenge of anti-Christ; which it is our duty as Christians to fight with all our power. The peoples of the British Commonwealth, along with all those who love truth and justice and freedom, will never accept this new world of Hitler's. Free men, not slaves; free nations, not German vassals; a community of nations, freely cooperating for the good of all—these are the pillars of the new and better order that the British people wish to see.
    • Broadcast (22 July 1940), quoted in The Times (23 July 1940), p. 5
  • Hitler may plant the swastika where he will, but unless he can sap the strength of Britain the foundations of his Empire are built on sand. In their hearts the peoples that he has beaten down curse him and pray that his attacks may be broken on the defences of our island fortress. They long for the day when we shall sally forth and return blow for blow. We shall assuredly not disappoint them. Then will come the day of final reckoning when Hitler's mad plans for Europe will be shattered by the unconquerable passion of man for freedom.
    • Broadcast (22 July 1940), quoted in The Times (23 July 1940), p. 5

Ambassador to the United States[edit]

  • As we begin to look beyond the war to the re-ordering of the world which must follow, we see three great Powers, the United States, Russia, and China. ... In the company of these Titans Britain, apart from the rest of the Commonwealth and Empire, could hardly claim equal partnership. ... If, in the future, Britain is to play her part without assuming burdens greater than she can support she must have with her in peace the same strength that has sustained her in this war. Not Great Britain only, but the British Commonwealth and Empire must be the fourth Power in that group upon which, under Providence, the peace of the world will henceforth depend.
    • Speech to centenary dinner of the Toronto Board of Trade (24 January 1944), quoted in The Times (25 January 1944), p. 3

Later life[edit]

  • One such interlude early in June 1940 is for ever graven into my memory. It was just after the fall of France, an event which at the time it happened seemed something unbelievable as to be almost surely unreal, and if not unreal then quite immeasurably catastrophic. Dorothy and I had spent a lovely summer evening walking over the Wolds, and on our way home sat in the sun for half an hour at a point looking across the plain of York. All the landscape of the nearer foreground was familiar—its sights, its sounds, its smells; hardly a field that did not call up some half-forgotten bit of association; the red-roofed village and nearby hamlets, gathered as it were for company round the old greystone church, where men and women like ourselves, now long dead and gone, had once knelt in worship and prayer. Here in Yorkshire was a true fragment of the undying England, like the White Cliffs of Dover, or any other part of our land that Englishmen have loved. Then the question came, is it possible that the Prussian jackboot will force its way into this countryside to tread and trample over it at will? The very thought seemed an insult and an outrage; much as if anyone were to be condemned to watch his mother, wife or daughter being raped.
    • Fulness of Days (Collins, 1957), p. 215

Attributed[edit]

  • Common sense and not bravado would dictate the British Government's policy.
    • Remark to Rab Butler contained in the Björn Prytz telegram (17 June 1940), quoted in Andrew Roberts, ‘The Holy Fox’: The Life of Lord Halifax (Phoenix, 1997), p. 232

Quotes about Halifax[edit]

  • ...if ever the day comes when the party which I lead ceases to attract to itself men of the calibre of Edward Wood, then I have finished with my party.
  • Edward [Halifax] seemed to suggest that Winston was a handicap to the Conservative Party. At last I turned on him. “I don't know what you are getting at,” I said rather hotly. “If the country had depended on you we might have lost the war.” Edward was furious and demanded an apology. Later he talked to Winston, saying I ought to apologize. Winston replied he hoped I'd do nothing of the sort. You see, Charles, Edward Halifax has been spoilt. Baldwin was largely responsible.
    • Clementine Churchill in conversation with Charles Moran (24 July 1953), quoted in Lord Moran, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940-1965 (London: Sphere, 1968), p. 467
  • Halifax's virtues have done more harm in the world than the vices of hundreds of other people. And yet when I meet him, I can't help having friendly talk.
    • Winston Churchill in conversation with Charles Moran (7 December 1947), quoted in Lord Moran, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940-1965 (London: Sphere, 1968), p. 351
  • To history, until yesterday, Halifax was the arch-appeaser. This, it is now recognised, was a mistake. His rôle, however, was complicated. In these pages he is not the man who stopped the rot, but the embodiment of Conservative wisdom who decided that Hitler must be obstructed because Labour could not otherwise be resisted.
    • Maurice Cowling, The Impact of Hitler. British Politics and British Policy, 1933-1940 (University of Chicago, 1977), p. 9.

External links[edit]