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The political and military career of Major-General J.E.B Seely 1868-1947

The political and military career of Major-General J.E.B Seely 1868-1947
The political and military career of Major-General J.E.B Seely 1868-1947

J. E. B. Seely, a middle-ranking politician, made significant contributions to national affairs and yet he is poorly represented in print. After the Boer War, he was instrumental in bringing the employment of Chinese labour in South Africa to the public's attention. He was responsible for steering the South Africa Bill in 1909 and the Official Secrets Bill in 1911 successfully through the Commons. The creation of the Royal Flying Corps and the improvement of the mobilisation plans, between 1911 and 1914, owed more to him whilst he was Under-Secretary and then Secretary of State for War, than to Haldane. He represented a type of Liberal who adapted to the changes in his party in the Edwardian period and he was on the radical wing, as a young politician. His election results show the national trends at the polls from 1900-1924 and the effect on a Liberal MP of the rise of the Labour Party, the Lib/Lab pact of the early twentieth century and the divisions within the Liberal Party after the First World War. When the Liberal Party declined, he remained loyal to it and refused to abandon his conviction that free trade should be retained. This brought an end to his career in the House of Commons in 1924 but he was able to exercise some influence on politics as an elder statesman. He urged the creation of a National Government in 1930. Such innovative ideas were also apparent in his advocacy of an independent Air Ministry and a Ministry of Defence. He conducted the successful publicity for the War Loan Conversion in 1932 and was responsible for encouraging the National Savings movement. The Curragh Incident of March 1914 has been dealt with in some detail to explain why Seely was repudiated by Asquith whilst Winston Churchill and Lord Morley, Seely's probable collaborators, survived. Seely was acting to prevent the spread of disaffection in the armed forces, which was far more widespread and threatening than had been assumed. The public outcry over what appeared to be a bargain struck between a politician and army officers forced Asquith to make a scapegoat of him Seely's military career shows his style of leadership, in contrast with the accepted attitudes of his time, and the problems of a volunteer officer serving under regular officers. This had earlier affected his conduct of affairs at the War Office. The success of his military command is evaluated, showing for example, that as late as 1918, cavalry could still make a difference to the outcome of a battle, as at Moreuil Wood. Winston Churchill was Seely's life-long friend and responsible for recommending him for his various promotions. The tensions between the two, over the administration of the Air Ministry in 1919, however, caused Seely to resign a second time from ministerial office. Seely's reputation suffered when he ranged himself with the appeasers in the 193O's. He was representative of those aristocrats who condemned the punitive nature of the Treaty of Versailles, looked favourably upon the economic achievements of Nazi Germany and saw the regime as a bulwark against Bolshevism.

University of Southampton
Cooper, Cathleen E
cf874834-aed2-43e4-a70c-8dbc267e33a9
Cooper, Cathleen E
cf874834-aed2-43e4-a70c-8dbc267e33a9

Cooper, Cathleen E (2001) The political and military career of Major-General J.E.B Seely 1868-1947. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

J. E. B. Seely, a middle-ranking politician, made significant contributions to national affairs and yet he is poorly represented in print. After the Boer War, he was instrumental in bringing the employment of Chinese labour in South Africa to the public's attention. He was responsible for steering the South Africa Bill in 1909 and the Official Secrets Bill in 1911 successfully through the Commons. The creation of the Royal Flying Corps and the improvement of the mobilisation plans, between 1911 and 1914, owed more to him whilst he was Under-Secretary and then Secretary of State for War, than to Haldane. He represented a type of Liberal who adapted to the changes in his party in the Edwardian period and he was on the radical wing, as a young politician. His election results show the national trends at the polls from 1900-1924 and the effect on a Liberal MP of the rise of the Labour Party, the Lib/Lab pact of the early twentieth century and the divisions within the Liberal Party after the First World War. When the Liberal Party declined, he remained loyal to it and refused to abandon his conviction that free trade should be retained. This brought an end to his career in the House of Commons in 1924 but he was able to exercise some influence on politics as an elder statesman. He urged the creation of a National Government in 1930. Such innovative ideas were also apparent in his advocacy of an independent Air Ministry and a Ministry of Defence. He conducted the successful publicity for the War Loan Conversion in 1932 and was responsible for encouraging the National Savings movement. The Curragh Incident of March 1914 has been dealt with in some detail to explain why Seely was repudiated by Asquith whilst Winston Churchill and Lord Morley, Seely's probable collaborators, survived. Seely was acting to prevent the spread of disaffection in the armed forces, which was far more widespread and threatening than had been assumed. The public outcry over what appeared to be a bargain struck between a politician and army officers forced Asquith to make a scapegoat of him Seely's military career shows his style of leadership, in contrast with the accepted attitudes of his time, and the problems of a volunteer officer serving under regular officers. This had earlier affected his conduct of affairs at the War Office. The success of his military command is evaluated, showing for example, that as late as 1918, cavalry could still make a difference to the outcome of a battle, as at Moreuil Wood. Winston Churchill was Seely's life-long friend and responsible for recommending him for his various promotions. The tensions between the two, over the administration of the Air Ministry in 1919, however, caused Seely to resign a second time from ministerial office. Seely's reputation suffered when he ranged himself with the appeasers in the 193O's. He was representative of those aristocrats who condemned the punitive nature of the Treaty of Versailles, looked favourably upon the economic achievements of Nazi Germany and saw the regime as a bulwark against Bolshevism.

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Published date: 2001

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 464329
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/464329
PURE UUID: 5b1fddf3-a746-4b9a-b08c-8ce65e4d8644

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Date deposited: 04 Jul 2022 22:17
Last modified: 23 Jul 2022 02:06

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Author: Cathleen E Cooper

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