Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930)
British statesman; nephew of the 3d marquess of Salisbury. He entered parliament
as a Conservative in 1874 and served as secretary to his uncle at the Congress
of Berlin (1878). Although associated with the "Fourth Party" of Lord Randolph
Churchill, he remained close to Salisbury, serving as president of the Local
Government Board (1885–86) and secretary for Scotland (1886). As chief secretary
for Ireland (1887–91) Balfour was a resolute opponent of the Home Rule movement
and suppressed riots, but he worked for agrarian reform. In 1891 he became
Conservative leader in the House of Commons and served (1891–92, 1895–1902) as
first lord of the treasury. He succeeded his uncle as prime minister in 1902.
His government achieved educational reform (1902), passed the Irish Land
Purchase Act (1903), created the Committee of Imperial Defence (1904), and
inaugurated the Franco-British Entente (1904). However, the Conservative party
split over tariff protection advocated by Joseph Chamberlain. Balfour resigned
in 1905, and his party was overwhelmingly defeated in the 1906 election. He
continued as leader of the Conservatives during the disputes over the 1909
budget and the reform of the House of Lords but resigned in 1911. Balfour was
first lord of the admiralty (1915–16) in Herbert Asquith's coalition government
and became (1916) foreign secretary under David Lloyd George. In this capacity
he issued the Balfour Declaration (1917), pledging British support to the
Zionist hope for a Jewish national home in Palestine, with the proviso that the
rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine would be respected (see Zionism).
He attended the Versailles peace conference and, as lord president of the
council (1919–22), represented Britain at the first meeting of the League of
Nations in 1920 and at the Washington Conference on limiting naval armaments in
1921–22. Created earl of Balfour in 1922, he was again lord president of the
council (1925–29). Balfour was a brilliant intellectual and an effective public
official, devoted to the cause of international peace. His philosophical
writings, which explore the problems of modern religion, include "The
Foundations of Belief" (1900), "Theism and Humanism" (1915), "Theism and Thought"
(1923), and "Opinions and Arguments" (1927).