The 1926 Imperial Conference was the seventh Imperial Conference bringing together the prime ministers of the Dominions of the British Empire. It was held in London from 19 October to 22 November 1926. The conference was notable for producing the Balfour Declaration, which established the principle that the dominions are all equal in status, and "autonomous communities within the British Empire" not subordinate to the United Kingdom. The term "Commonwealth" was officially adopted to describe the community.
The conference was arranged to follow directly after the 1926 Assembly of the League of Nations (in Geneva, Switzerland), to reduce the amount of travelling required for the dominions' representatives.
The conference created the Inter-Imperial Relations Committee, chaired by Arthur Balfour, to look into future constitutional arrangements for the Commonwealth. In the end, the committee rejected the idea of a codified constitution, as espoused by South Africa's former Prime Minister Jan Smuts, but also fell short of endorsing the "end of empire" espoused by Smuts's arch-rival, Barry Hertzog. The recommendations were adopted unanimously by the conference on 15 November, followed by an equally warm reception in the newspapers.
|1926 Imperial Conference|
|Host country||United Kingdom|
|Date||19 October 1926–|
23 November 1926
|Heads of State or Government||8|
|Chair||Stanley Baldwin (Prime Minister)|
Balfour Declaration, constitutional arrangements
|United Kingdom||Stanley Baldwin||Prime Minister (Chairman)|
|The Earl of Balfour||Lord President of the Council|
|Winston Churchill||Chancellor of the Exchequer|
|Austen Chamberlain||Foreign Secretary|
|Sir William Joynson-Hicks||Home Secretary|
|Leo Amery||Colonial Secretary and Dominions Secretary|
|Sir Laming Worthington-Evans||War Secretary|
|Sir Samuel Hoare||Air Secretary|
|William Bridgeman||First Lord of the Admiralty|
|Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister||President of the Board of Trade|
|The Viscount Cecil of Chelwood||Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster|
|The Earl of Clarendon||Under Dominions Secretary|
|William Ormsby-Gore||Under Colonial Secretary|
|Sir Philip Sassoon||Under Air Secretary|
|Australia||Stanley Bruce||Prime Minister|
|Neville Howse||Minister for Defence and Minister for Health|
|Canada||William Lyon Mackenzie King||Prime Minister|
|Ernest Lapointe||Minister of Justice|
|India||The Earl of Birkenhead||Secretary of State|
|The Earl of Winterton||Under-Secretary of State|
|Irish Free State||W. T. Cosgrave||President|
|Kevin O'Higgins||Vice-President and Minister for Justice|
|Desmond FitzGerald||Minister for External Affairs|
|Patrick McGilligan||Minister for Industry and Commerce|
|James McNeill||Irish High Commissioner to United Kingdom|
|Newfoundland||Walter Stanley Monroe||Prime Minister|
|William J. Higgins||Minister of Justice|
|Alfred B. Morine||Minister without portfolio|
|New Zealand||Gordon Coates||Prime Minister|
|Sir Francis Bell||Minister without portfolio|
|South Africa||J. B. M. Hertzog||Prime Minister|
|Nicolaas Havenga||Finance Minister|
The 1930 Imperial Conference was the seventh Imperial Conference bringing together the Prime Ministers of the dominions of the British Empire. It was held in London. The conference was notable for producing the Statute of Westminster, which established legislative equality for the self-governing Dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom, thereby marking the effective legislative independence of these countries, either immediately or upon ratification. Economic relations within the British Empire was also a key topic with proposals for a system of Imperial preference - empire-wide trade barriers against foreign (i.e. non-empire) goods. These proposals were further discussed at the British Empire Economic Conference in 1932.Balfour Declaration of 1926
The Balfour Declaration of 1926, issued by the 1926 Imperial Conference of British Empire leaders in London, was named after Lord President of the Council (and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) Arthur Balfour. It declared the United Kingdom and the Dominions to be:
... autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
The Inter-Imperial Relations Committee, chaired by Balfour, drew up the document preparatory to its unanimous approval by the imperial premiers on 15 November 1926. It was first proposed by South African Prime Minister J. B. M. Hertzog and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.
The Declaration accepted the growing political and diplomatic independence of the Dominions in the years after World War I. It also recommended that the governors-general, the representatives of the King who acted for the Crown as de facto head of state in each dominion, should no longer also serve automatically as the representative of the British government in diplomatic relations between the countries. In following years, High Commissioners were gradually appointed, whose duties were soon recognised to be virtually identical to those of an ambassador. The first such British High Commissioner was appointed to Ottawa in 1928.
The conclusions of the imperial premiers conference of 1926 were re-stated by the 1930 conference and incorporated in the Statute of Westminster of December 1931, by which the British parliament renounced any legislative authority over dominion affairs, except as specifically provided in law.British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.During the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal and Spain pioneered European exploration of the globe, and in the process established large overseas empires. Envious of the great wealth these empires generated, England, France, and the Netherlands began to establish colonies and trade networks of their own in the Americas and Asia. A series of wars in the 17th and 18th centuries with the Netherlands and France left England and then, following union between England and Scotland in 1707, Great Britain, the dominant colonial power in North America. It then became the dominant power in the Indian subcontinent after the East India Company's conquest of Mughal Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757.
The independence of the Thirteen Colonies in North America in 1783 after the American War of Independence caused Britain to lose some of its oldest and most populous colonies. British attention soon turned towards Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. After the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), Britain emerged as the principal naval and imperial power of the 19th century. Unchallenged at sea, British dominance was later described as Pax Britannica ("British Peace"), a period of relative peace in Europe and the world (1815–1914) during which the British Empire became the global hegemon and adopted the role of global policeman. In the early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution began to transform Britain; so that by the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851, the country was described as the "workshop of the world". The British Empire expanded to include most of India, large parts of Africa and many other territories throughout the world. Alongside the formal control that Britain exerted over its own colonies, its dominance of much of world trade meant that it effectively controlled the economies of many regions, such as Asia and Latin America.During the 19th century, Britain's population increased at a dramatic rate, accompanied by rapid urbanisation, which caused significant social and economic stresses. To seek new markets and sources of raw materials, the British government under Benjamin Disraeli initiated a period of imperial expansion in Egypt, South Africa, and elsewhere. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand became self-governing dominions.By the start of the 20th century, Germany and the United States had begun to challenge Britain's economic lead. Subsequent military and economic tensions between Britain and Germany were major causes of the First World War, during which Britain relied heavily upon its empire. The conflict placed enormous strain on the military, financial and manpower resources of Britain. Although the British Empire achieved its largest territorial extent immediately after World War I, Britain was no longer the world's pre-eminent industrial or military power. In the Second World War, Britain's colonies in East and Southeast Asia were occupied by Japan. Despite the final victory of Britain and its allies, the damage to British prestige helped to accelerate the decline of the empire. India, Britain's most valuable and populous possession, achieved independence as part of a larger decolonisation movement in which Britain granted independence to most territories of the empire. The transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997 marked for many the end of the British Empire. Fourteen overseas territories remain under British sovereignty.
After independence, many former British colonies joined the Commonwealth of Nations, a free association of independent states. The United Kingdom is now one of 16 Commonwealth nations, a grouping known informally as the Commonwealth realms, that share a monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II.Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally known as the Commonwealth, is a sui generis political association of 53 member states, nearly all of them former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the Commonwealth Secretariat, which focuses on intergovernmental aspects, and the Commonwealth Foundation, which focuses on non-governmental relations between member states.The Commonwealth dates back to the first half of the 20th century with the decolonisation of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories. It was originally created as the British Commonwealth through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, and formalised by the United Kingdom through the Statute of Westminster in 1931. The current Commonwealth of Nations was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which modernised the community, and established the member states as "free and equal".The human symbol of this free association is the Head of the Commonwealth, currently Queen Elizabeth II, and the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting appointed Charles, Prince of Wales to be her designated successor, although the position is not technically heriditary. The Queen is the head of state of 16 member states, known as the Commonwealth realms, while 32 other members are republics and five others have different monarchs.
Member states have no legal obligations to one another. Instead, they are united by English language, history, culture and their shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These values are enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter and promoted by the quadrennial Commonwealth Games.
The countries of the Commonwealth cover more than 29,958,050 km2 (11,566,870 sq mi), equivalent to 20% of the world's land area, and span all six inhabited continents.Dominion of New Zealand
The Dominion of New Zealand (Māori: Te Tominiana o Aotearoa) was the historical successor to the Colony of New Zealand. It was a constitutional monarchy with a high level of self-government within the British Empire.
New Zealand became a separate British Crown colony in 1841 and received responsible government with the Constitution Act in 1852. New Zealand chose not to take part in Australian Federation and became the Dominion of New Zealand on 26 September 1907, Dominion Day, by proclamation of King Edward VII. Dominion status was a public mark of the political independence that had evolved over half a century through responsible government.
Just under one million people lived in New Zealand in 1907 and cities such as Auckland and Wellington were growing rapidly. The Dominion of New Zealand allowed the British Government to shape its foreign policy, and it followed Britain into the First World War. The 1923 and 1926 Imperial Conferences decided that New Zealand should be allowed to negotiate its own political treaties, and the first commercial treaty was ratified in 1928 with Japan. When the Second World War broke out in 1939 the New Zealand Government made its own decision to enter the war.
In the post-war period, the term Dominion has fallen into disuse. Full independence was granted with the Statute of Westminster in 1931 and adopted by the New Zealand Parliament in 1947. However, the 1907 royal proclamation of Dominion status has never been revoked and remains in force today.Executive Council of the Irish Free State
The Executive Council (Irish: Ard-Chomhairle) was the cabinet and de facto executive branch of government of the 1922–1937 Irish Free State. Formally, executive power was vested in the Governor-General on behalf of the King. In practice, however, it was the Council that governed, since the Governor-General was (with few exceptions) bound to act on its advice. The Executive Council included a prime minister called the President of the Executive Council and a deputy prime minister called the Vice-President. A member of the Council was called an executive minister, as distinct from an extern minister who had charge of a department without being in the Council.
The President of the Executive Council was appointed by the Governor-General after being nominated by Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (parliament), and the remaining Executive Ministers were nominated by the President. The Executive Council could also be removed by a vote of no confidence in the Dáil.
For formal and diplomatic purposes the description "His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State" was sometimes used.Governor-General of Australia
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative of the Australian monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. As the Queen is shared equally with the 15 other Commonwealth realms, and resides in the United Kingdom, she, on the advice of her prime minister, appoints a governor-general to carry out constitutional duties within the Commonwealth of Australia. The governor-general has formal presidency over the Federal Executive Council and is commander-in-chief of the Australian Defence Force. The functions of the governor-general include appointing ministers, judges, and ambassadors; giving royal assent to legislation passed by parliament; issuing writs for election; and bestowing Australian honours.In general, the governor-general observes the conventions of the Westminster system and responsible government, maintaining a political neutrality, and has almost always acted only on the advice of the prime minister or other ministers or, in certain cases, parliament. The governor-general also has a ceremonial role: hosting events at either of the two official residences—Government House in the capital, Canberra, and Admiralty House in Sydney—and travelling throughout Australia to open conferences, attend services and commemorations, and generally provide encouragement to individuals and groups who are contributing to their communities. When travelling abroad, the governor-general is seen as the representative of Australia, and the Queen of Australia. The governor-general is supported by a staff (of 80 in 2018) headed by the official secretary to the governor-general.
A governor-general is not appointed for a specific term, but is generally expected to serve for five years subject to a possible short extension. Since 28 March 2014, the Governor-General has been General Sir Peter Cosgrove.From Federation in 1901 until 1965, 11 out of the 15 governors-general were British aristocrats; they included four barons, three viscounts, three earls, and one royal duke. Since then, all but one of the governors-general have been Australian-born; the exception, Sir Ninian Stephen, arrived in Australia as a teenager. Only one Governor-General, Dame Quentin Bryce (2008–2014), has been a woman.
On 16 December 2018 it was announced that General Sir Peter Cosgrove would be replaced with General David Hurley, currently the Governor of New South Wales.Governor-General of the Irish Free State
The Governor-General (Irish: Seanascal) was the official representative of the sovereign of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1936. By convention, the Office of Governor-General was largely ceremonial. Nonetheless, it was controversial, as many Irish Nationalists regarded the existence of the office as offensive to republican principles and a symbol of continued Irish involvement in the United Kingdom, despite the Governor-General having no connection to the British Government after 1931. For this reason, the office's role was diminished over time by the Irish Government.
The 1931 enactment in London of the Statute of Westminster gave the Irish Free State full legislative independence. However, the Irish considered that full legislative independence had been achieved in 1922. The role of Governor-General in the Irish Free State was officially abolished on 11 December 1936, at the time of Edward VIII's abdication as king of the United Kingdom and all the Dominions.Governor-general
Governor-general (plural governors-general) or governor general (plural governors general), in modern usage, is the title of an office-holder appointed to represent the monarch of a sovereign state in the governing of an independent realm. Governors-general have also previously been appointed in respect of major colonial states or other territories held by either a monarchy or republic, such as French Indochina.Independence of New Zealand
The independence of New Zealand is a matter of continued academic and social debate. New Zealand has no fixed date of independence; instead, political independence came about as a result of New Zealand's evolving constitutional status. The concept of a national "Independence Day" does not exist in New Zealand.
The principles behind the independence of New Zealand began before New Zealand even became a British colony in 1840. There had been minor rebellions in Canada, and in order to avoid making the mistakes which had led to the American revolution, Lord Durham was commissioned to make a report on the government of colonies which contained a substantial British population. The principles of self-government within the Empire were laid down in the Durham Report and first put into operation in Nova Scotia in 1848. Canada, New Zealand, and the Australian colonies very soon followed suit. The British Parliament passed the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 to grant the colony's settlers the right to self-governance, only 12 years (in 1853) after the founding of the colony. New Zealand was therefore to all intents and purposes independent in domestic matters from its earliest days as a British colony.
The first major step towards nationhood on the international stage came in 1919 when New Zealand was given a seat in the newly founded League of Nations. In 1926 the Balfour Declaration declared Britain's Dominions as "equal in status", followed by the creation of the legal basis of independence, established by the Statute of Westminster 1931 which came about mainly at the behest of nationalist elements in South Africa and the Irish Free State. However, Australia, New Zealand, and Newfoundland were hostile towards this development, and the statute was not adopted in New Zealand until 1947. Irrespective of any legal developments, some New Zealanders still perceived themselves as a distinctive outlying branch of the United Kingdom until at least the 1970s. This attitude began to change when the United Kingdom joined the European Community in 1973 and abrogated its preferential trade agreements with New Zealand, and gradual nationality and societal changes further eroded the relationship.List of High Commissioners of the United Kingdom to Australia
The High Commissioner of the United Kingdom to Australia is an officer of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the United Kingdom's foremost diplomatic representative to the Commonwealth of Australia. Despite Britain's close relationship with Australia, the first High Commissioner from London was not appointed until 1936, owing to the clarification of Britain's relations with the Imperial Dominions after the Statute of Westminster 1931.List of ambassadors of the United Kingdom to Ireland
The Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Ireland is the United Kingdom's foremost diplomatic representative in Ireland and head of the UK's diplomatic mission in Ireland.Peter Charles Larkin
Peter Charles Larkin, (May 14, 1855 – February 3, 1930), was a Canadian businessman, diplomat, and political patron.
Larkin, a world traveller who specialized in finding foodstuffs for import, was best known for founding the Salada Tea Company in 1892. Larkin introduced the concept of packaging tea in foil to maintain quality. Previously, tea had been sold in loose form. This innovation proved popular and soon became the industry standard, helping to establish Salada as a leading seller of tea in Canada and the northeastern USA with factories in Toronto, Montreal and Boston.
Larkin was a close friend of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King and was one of several wealthy supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada who contributed furniture, china and silver to Laurier House the residence of Mackenzie King.
As Prime Minister of Canada, King appointed Larkin as Canadian high commissioner to the United Kingdom, a position he held until his death. Larkin was the driving force behind Canada's acquisition of the building later known as Canada House in London to house the high commission.
In the late 1920s, Larkin raised $250,000 for Mackenzie King in order to give him financial security.Royal Victorian Order
The Royal Victorian Order (French: Ordre royal de Victoria) is a dynastic order of knighthood established in 1896 by Queen Victoria. It recognises distinguished personal service to the monarch of the Commonwealth realms, members of the monarch's family, or to any viceroy or senior representative of the monarch. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is the Sovereign of the order, its motto is Victoria, and its official day is 20 June. The order's chapel is the Savoy Chapel in London.
There is no limit on the number honoured at any grade, and admission remains at the sole discretion of the monarch, with each of the order's five grades and one medal with three levels representing different levels of service. While all those honoured may use the prescribed styles of the order—the top two grades grant titles of knighthood, and all grades accord distinct post-nominal letters—the Royal Victorian Order's precedence amongst other honours differs from realm to realm and admission to some grades may be barred to citizens of those realms by government policy.Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927
The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 (17 & 18 Geo. 5 c. 4) was an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that authorised the alteration of the British monarch's royal style and titles, and altered the formal name of the British Parliament, in recognition of most of Ireland separating from the United Kingdom as the Irish Free State. It received royal assent on 12 April 1927.Stanley Bruce
Stanley Melbourne Bruce, 1st Viscount Bruce of Melbourne, (15 April 1883 – 25 August 1967) was the eighth Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1923 to 1929. He made wide-ranging reforms and mounted a comprehensive nation-building program in government, but his controversial handling of industrial relations led to a dramatic defeat at the polls in 1929. Bruce later pursued a long and influential diplomatic career as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (1933–1945) and chairman of the Food and Agriculture Organization (1946–1951).
Born into a wealthy Melbourne family, Bruce studied at the University of Cambridge and spent his early life tending to the importing and exporting business of his late father. He served on the front lines of the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I and returned to Australia wounded in 1917, becoming a spokesperson for government recruitment efforts. He gained the attention of the Nationalist Party and Prime Minister Billy Hughes, who encouraged a political career. He was elected to parliament in 1918, becoming treasurer in 1921 and then prime minister in 1923, at the head of a coalition with the Country Party.
In office Bruce pursued an energetic and diverse agenda. He comprehensively overhauled federal government administration and oversaw its transfer to the new capital city of Canberra. He implemented various reforms to the Australian federal system to strengthen the role of the Commonwealth, and helped develop the forerunners of the Australian Federal Police and the CSIRO. Bruce's "men, money and markets" scheme was an ambitious attempt to rapidly expand Australia's population and economic potential through massive government investment and closer ties with Great Britain and the rest of the British Empire. However, his endeavours to overhaul Australia's industrial relations system brought his government into frequent conflict with the labour movement, and his radical proposal to abolish Commonwealth arbitration in 1929 prompted members of his own party to cross the floor to defeat the government. In the resounding loss at the subsequent election the prime minister lost his own seat, an event unprecedented in Australia and one that would not occur again until 2007.
Although he returned to parliament in 1931, Bruce's service in the Lyons Government was brief. Instead he pursued an international career, accepting appointment as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in 1933. Bruce became an influential figure in British government circles and at the League of Nations, emerging as a tireless advocate for international cooperation on economic and social problems, especially those facing the developing world. Particularly passionate on improving global nutrition, Bruce was one of the key figures in the establishment of the Food and Agriculture Organization, serving as the first chairman of its governing council. He was the first Australian to sit in the House of Lords, as well as the first Chancellor of the Australian National University. Although his diplomatic career went largely unnoticed in Australia, he continued throughout his life in London to vociferously advocate for Australian interests (particularly during World War II) and asked that his remains be returned to Canberra when he died in 1967.Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942
The Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 is an Act of the Australian Parliament that formally adopted sections 2–6 of the Statute of Westminster 1931, an Act of the British Imperial Parliament enabling the total legislative independence of the various self-governing Dominions of the British Empire. The Statute of Westminster further restricted the ability of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to legislate for the Dominions.
With the passage of the Adoption Act, the British Parliament relinquished almost all of its authority to legislate for the Commonwealth. The adoption was made retroactive to 3 September 1939, when Australia entered World War II.
The Act is more important for its symbolic value than for the legal effect of its provisions. While Australia's growing independence from the United Kingdom was well accepted, the adoption of the Statute of Westminster formally demonstrated Australia's independence to the world. It also symbolised the shift in Australia's foreign policy from a focus on the United Kingdom to the United States.Treaty of Vereeniging
The Treaty of Vereeniging was a peace treaty, signed on 31 May 1902, that ended the Second Boer War between the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, on the one side, and the United Kingdom on the other.
This settlement provided for the end of hostilities and eventual self-government to the Transvaal (South African Republic) and the Orange Free State as colonies of the United Kingdom. The Boer republics agreed to come under the sovereignty of the British Crown and the British government agreed on various details.Walter Stanley Monroe
Walter Stanley Monroe (May 14, 1871 – October 6, 1952) was a businessman and conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of Newfoundland from 1924 to 1928 as leader of the Liberal-Conservative Progressive Party.
He was born in Ireland in 1871, the first son of John Monroe, a distinguished lawyer who became Solicitor-General for Ireland, and his wife Elizabeth Moule. He emigrated to Newfoundland to join his uncle, Moses Monroe, in 1888.
Monroe was a successful businessman who briefly served in the government of William Warren. He emerged from the political crisis that destroyed the governments of Sir Richard Squires and William Warren as leader of a new party, the Liberal-Conservative Progressive Party, which had been cobbled together by Warren and the opposition Conservatives after Warren's government fell. The party was essentially a conservative party and swept to power in the 1924 election, weeks after it was formed.
The Monroe government saw a successful settlement of the Labrador boundary dispute with Quebec after Newfoundland successfully argued its case at the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. Monroe returned to private life and resigned on August 15, 1928 passing the leadership of the party to his cousin Frederick C. Alderdice who became the new Prime Minister.