Richard Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane

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Richard Burdon Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane KT OM PC FRS FSA FBA (30 July 1856 – 19 August 1928) was a British lawyer and philosopher and an influential Liberal and later Labour politician. He was Secretary of State for War between 1905 and 1912 during which time the "Haldane Reforms" of the British Army were implemented. As an intellectual he was fascinated with German thought. That led to his role in seeking detente with Germany in 1912 in the Haldane Mission. The mission was a failure and tensions with Berlin forced London to work more closely with Paris.

Raised to the peerage as Viscount Haldane in 1911, he was Lord Chancellor between 1912 and 1915, when he was forced to resign because of allegations of German sympathies. He later joined the Labour Party and once again served as Lord Chancellor in 1924 in the first Labour administration. Apart from his legal and political careers, Haldane was also an influential writer on philosophy, in recognition of which he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1914.



Higher Nationality (1913)

Higher Nationality: A Study in Law and Ethics: An Address Delivered Before the American Bar Association at Montreal on 1st September 1913 (1913)
  • A stranger to the spirit of the law as it was evolved through centuries in England will always find its history a curious one. Looking first at the early English Common Law, its most striking feature is the enormous extent to which its founders concerned themselves with remedies before settling the substantive rules for breach of which the remedies were required. Nowhere else, unless perhaps in the law of ancient Rome, do we see such a spectacle of legal writs making legal rights.
    • p. 11
  • The moral of the whole story is the hopelessness of attempting to study Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence apart from the history of its growth and of the characters of the judges who created it. It is by no accident that among Anglo-Saxon lawyers the law does not assume the form of codes, but is largely judge-made. We have statutory codes for portions of the field which we have to cover. But those statutory codes come, not at the beginning, but at the end. For the most part the law has already been made by those who practise it before the codes embody it. Such codes with us arrive only with the close of the day, after its heat and burden have been borne, and when the journey is already near its end.
    • pp. 16-17
  • Conscience and, for that matter, law overlap parts of the sphere of social obligation about which I am speaking. A rule of conduct may, indeed, appear in more than one sphere, and may consequently have a twofold sanction. But the guide to which the citizen mostly looks is just the standard recognised by the community, a community made up mainly of those fellow-citizens whose good opinion he respects and desires to have. He has everywhere round him an object-lesson in the conduct of decent people towards each other and towards the community to which they belong. Without such conduct and the restraints which it imposes there could be no tolerable social life, and real freedom from interference would not be enjoyed. It is the instinctive sense of what to do and what not to do in daily life and behaviour that is the source of liberty and ease. And it is this instinctive sense of obligation that is the chief foundation of society. Its reality takes objective shape and displays itself in family life and in our other civic and social institutions
    • p. 23
  • Indeed the civic community is more than a political fabric. It includes all the social institutions in and by which the individual life is influenced—such as are the family, the school, the church, the legislature, and the executive. None of these can subsist in isolation from the rest; together they and other institutions of the kind form a single organic whole, the whole which is known as the Nation.
    • p. 24
  • There are few observers who have not been impressed with the wonderful unity and concentration of purpose which an entire nation may display—above all, in a period of crisis. We see it in time of war, when a nation is fighting for its life or for a great cause. We have seen it in Japan, and we have seen it still more recently even among the peoples of the Balkan Peninsula. We have marvelled at the illustrations with which history abounds of the General Will rising to heights of which but few of the individual citizens in whom it is embodied have ever before been conscious even in their dreams.
    • pp. 32-33
  • There is growing up a disposition to believe that it is good, not only for all men but for all nations, to consider their neighbours' point of view as well as their own. There is apparent at least a tendency to seek for a higher standard of ideals in international relations. The barbarism which once looked to conquest and the waging of successful war as the main object of statesmanship, seems as though it were passing away. There have been established rules of International Law which already govern the conduct of war itself, and are generally observed as binding by all civilised people, with the result that the cruelties of war have been lessened. If practice falls short of theory, at least there is to-day little effective challenge of the broad principle that a nation has as regards its neighbours duties as well as rights.
    • p. 37
  • In the year which is approaching, a century will have passed since the United States and the people of Canada and Great Britain terminated a great war by the Peace of Ghent. On both sides the combatants felt that war to be unnatural and one that should never have commenced. And now we have lived for nearly a hundred years, not only in peace, but also, I think, in process of coming to a deepening and yet more complete understanding of each other, and to the possession of common ends and ideals, ends and ideals which are natural to the Anglo-Saxon group, and to that group alone. It seems to me that within our community there is growing an ethical feeling which has something approaching to the binding quality of which I have been speaking
    • p. 39

Quotes about Lord Haldane

  • In the welter of sentimentality, amid which Great Britain might easily have mouldered into ruin, my valued colleague, Lord Haldane, presented a figure alike interesting, individual, and arresting. In speech fluent and even infinite he yielded to no living idealist in the easy coinage of sentimental phraseology. Here, indeed, he was a match for those who distributed the chloroform of Berlin. Do we not remember, for instance, that Germany was his spiritual home? But he none the less prepared himself, and the Empire, to talk when the time came with his spiritual friends in language not in the least spiritual. He devised the Territorial Army, which was capable of becoming the easy nucleus of national conscription, and which unquestionably ought to have been used for that purpose at the outbreak of war. He created the Imperial General Staff. He founded the Officers' Training Corps.
    • Lord Birkenhead, Idealism in International Politics: A Rectorial Address, Delivered on November 3rd, 1923 (n.d.), p. 9