Joseph Chamberlain Resigns as Colonial Secretary

September 14th, 1903

After making a fortune in industry in Birmingham and building a power base there, Joseph Chamberlain entered national politics as a Liberal MP in 1876. He served under Gladstone, but in 1886 broke with him over home rule for Ireland, led the Liberal Unionists into the Conservative camp and in 1895 joined the Conservative cabinet under Lord Salisbury as secretary of state for the colonies. He then broke the Conservatives in their turn on the issue of imperial preference.

Free trade had made Britain rich. It was practically a religion and it was the Treasury’s ark of the covenant, but now ‘the workshop of the world’ was threatened by competition from Germany and the United States, which shielded themselves behind tariff walls. So far had things gone by 1900 that buttons made in Germany were on sale at competitive prices in Birmingham itself!

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