Object of the Month October 2018

The Eadon Family

Political Life in Edwardian Rugby

Eadon collection

This image is just one of the photographs from the current exhibition 'The Eadons of Hillmorton Road'.  It shows a ‘chairing the member’ victory celebration, following the election of John Baird as MP for Rugby. The balance of probability suggests that this would have been either of the two general elections which took place in the January and December of 1910.

1910 is the only calendar year in electoral history (except 1974) where Britain has held two general elections; it was also an election of very great constitutional significance. That of January was prompted by the failure of the sitting Liberal government and its Chancellor, David Lloyd George, to pass its “People’s Budget”. This was considered a groundbreaking financial measure, given that it had the explicit intent of redistributing wealth in the interests of greater economic equality. The budget had been passed by the Commons, but was then vetoed by the House of Lords, thus breaking with a longstanding parliamentary convention. The election result was a hung parliament, where the Liberals were able to retain power only with the assistance of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Another election was held in December in order to gain a mandate for the Parliament Act, which was intended to prevent the House of Lords from having a veto on any financial bills. The result was yet another hung parliament, but the Liberals were able to retain their majority, with Irish and Labour support, and the Act was passed in August 1911. The Act formally established the priority of the Commons over the Lords, and reduced the frequency of British General Elections from seven to five years.

John Baird (1874 - 1941) went on to have a very distinguished political and diplomatic career. He served in the First World War, being mentioned in dispatches and winning the DSO. He then served in several ministerial roles in both David Lloyd George’s Liberal coalition government, and Bonar Law’s Conservative Government (from 1922). In December 1924 he accepted the position of Governor General of Australia, remaining in this role until 1931, when he undertook the role of chairman of the Conservative Party until 1936. Created Lord Stonehaven in 1925 and Viscount Stonehaven in 1938, he was a prominent freemason, being Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New South Wales during the period of his Governorship.

Eadpn exhibition

We are familiar with general election speeches from victorious candidates at their constituency count, but an earlier tradition saw newly elected MPs being carried through the streets as part of a ‘chairing’ celebration. Gradually decreasing in popularity throughout the twentieth century, perhaps being seen as overly triumphalist and out of keeping with more modern democratic values, it had provided a spectacle famously memorialized by the satirical artist William Hogarth in his Chairing the Member painting (and subsequent engraving) from his Humours of an Election series of 1755. As such, the Eadon collection photograph represents an unusual record of a now almost vanished political tradition.

English political chairing

Jake Smith, RAGM 2018

Images:

Chairing the Member, John Baird MP. The Eadon Collection Copyright Rugby ARt Gallery and Museum, Rugby Borough Council

All other images from Wikipedia

John Baird, MP

John Baird 1927 a caricature of his time as Governor-General of Australia

Chairing the Member, The Humours of an Election, William Hogarth 1755