The Unknown Prime Minister: The Life and Times of Andrew Bonar Law, 1858-1923

The Unknown Prime Minister: The Life and Times of Andrew Bonar Law, 1858-1923

The Unknown Prime Minister: The Life and Times of Andrew Bonar Law, 1858-1923

The Unknown Prime Minister: The Life and Times of Andrew Bonar Law, 1858-1923

Excerpt

In his will Bonar Law expressed the wish that, if it were deemed desirable to write his life, his youngest son, Richard (now Lord Coleraine), should be given the first refusal. The pressure of politics and business upon his time has, however, made it impossible for Lord Coleraine to do this, and with his full agreement the task has been entrusted to me by Lord Beaverbrook, who was Bonar Law's closest friend and is his executor.

The title of this book is taken from a remark attributed to Asquith after he had attended Bonar Law's funeral in Westminster Abbey. "It is fitting," he is reputed to have said, "that we should have buried the Unknown Prime Minister by the side of the Unknown Soldier." I have used this phrase, not because I consider that Asquith's remark was either just or true, but because, however unfairly, it has come to be the verdict of most people to-day. Even in his own lifetime Bonar Law's origins, career, character, and the reasons for his success acquired something of an aura of mystery which the passage of time has done nothing to remove. It is my hope that this book may help to dispel that erroneous impression.

The biography of an important political personage, especially when it is the first to be based upon his private papers, requires no special justification. The biographer must bear in mind that he is not only producing the first reasonably authoritative account of his subject's personality and impact upon events, but also that he is making available in the form of letters, memoranda, speeches, etc., the raw material upon which future historians of the period will have to rely. For these reasons such a book, if it is to have any real value, cannot be short, and I therefore make no apology for the length of this biography.

If this book has a theme, other than one of pure narrative, it is to illustrate some of the problems and difficulties facing the leader of a great political party, who believed in preserving his party's unity and, for good or ill, succeeded in doing so through twelve dramatic years of convulsion, crisis, and revolutionary change. Those who regard party politics with contempt as a paltry or ignoble pursuit will think little of Bonar Law and still less of this book.

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