Arthur Henderson was a British Labour Party politician who led the party from 1918 to 1931. He served as the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1924 to 1929.
Henderson worked as a trade unionist and became secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in 1902. From 1919, he played an important role in establishing International Red Aid, an organisation to help victims of war, and served on its executive committee until 1928. He was elected to Parliament for Nottingham at a by-election in 1911 but left parliament at the 1918 general election when disqualified because he had accepted a government medal; his successor lost the seat in 1922.
About Arthur Henderson
Arthur Henderson, 1st Baron Faringdon, PC (29 March 1863 – 29 October 1935) was a British Labour politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1924 to 1929.
Henderson was born in Glasgow, where his father had been a factory worker and campaign organizer for The Salvation Army. He became an apprentice engineer in the works of the Clyde Valley Railway, and while working there he studied at Anderson’s College; later, he won a scholarship to Ruskin College and then won another scholarship to London University. In 1892 he was appointed Secretary of the Scottish Labour Federation, and in 1895 was elected General Secretary of the Fabian Society. In 1899 he convened an international socialist congress in London.
Life of Henderson
Arthur Henderson was born in a tenement house in Glasgow on 29th March 1863. He was the eldest of nine children, two being girls and seven boys. His father was Joseph Henderson, an engineer working for the railway company, who had previously been active in the Salvation Army. His mother belonged to the Church of Scotland and taught at a Sunday school.
Henderson served as Secretary of the Scottish Labour Federation from 1892-1895 and then became General Secretary of the Fabian Society from 1895-1904. During this time he also travelled widely around Britain teaching trade union politics to union leaders and helping organise trade union campaigns against poverty and unemployment.
In 1893 Henderson won a studentship to Ruskin College and from there gained a scholarship at University of London where he studied Economics and History. He went on to gain another scholarship to study at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Personal life of Henderson
Henderson married Alice Clifton in 1883, they had five children together, three daughters and two sons Arthur was their first child. Alice died in 1896 leaving Arthur a young widower with five children under the age of ten. This added strain led him to seek more time away from his family though this meant he could not obtain the position that would enable him to raise them as he had planned.
Henderson was made a friend of the Liberal Party leader, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and was adopted as candidate for his seat of North West Lanarkshire in 1900. He lost that election but was elected for Nottingham in the by-election of 1911, becoming a member of Lloyd George’s coalition government. Henderson resigned from Parliament in December 1918 to protest at the settlement reached at Versailles and returned to politics only after the 1922 general election.
Arthur Henderson returned to parliament in 1922 and became Secretary for Mines under MacDonald. Henderson gained support from various branches of Labour including the Trades Union Congress, Labour Party and ILP. He was also supported by thousands of former members of the Independent Labour Party (ILP).
Henderson became secretary for the Amalgamated Engineering Union in 1902 and played a key role in establishing a national network of Trade Unions. Henderson was the leader of the union for 14 years and this played a big part during his time as a Labour MP because he was able to gain support from industry. He did not rule out co-operation with the Liberal Party when Lloyd George became Prime Minister but became disillusioned by what he saw as their inability to help working people.
In December 1918 Henderson took part in a delegation to Versailles, where Germany had its headquarters following defeat in World War I, to protest at the Versailler Treaty, signed four months earlier by David Lloyd George on behalf of Britain and France.
The Labour Party
Henderson led the Labour Party from 1918 to 1931. He was its first elected Leader, serving two years before becoming the first Labour Chancellor in 1924. Henderson led the Parliamentary party during a prolonged period of Conservative Party Government and served as Leader through four general elections. He was instrumental in forging the policies which made Labour a credible party of Government. He argued for increases in social security, laying the foundations for what would become the welfare state and implemented Keynsian economic policies to try to tackle unemployment during a period of stagnation and deflation. Having established himself as an important voice on financial matters he was called upon to be Chancellor in 1924 but found it difficult to fulfil these duties because he felt that his contribution was not valued or even noticed.
Awards and Honours
Henderson became a baron in 1921 and was knighted in the 1924 New Year Honours. He received the KCMG in 1928 and was made a Privy Counsellor in 1929.
Henderson retired as Leader of the Labour Party on 31 October 1931 with his health rapidly deteriorating, but he continued to serve as Chancellor of the Exchequer until shortly before his death from cancer on 29 October 1935 at Bournemouth. He is buried at Dorset Parish Churchyard, Dorchester, Dorset. He got the Nobel prize in peace in 1934.
A free nation cannot afford to have its citizens without the means of sustenance. A country whose citizens are hungry, is not really a free country.