William Waldegrave Palmer Selborne
From Classic Encyclopedia 1911
WILLIAM WALDEGRAVE PALMER SELBORNE, 2ND Earl Of (1859-), son of the preceding, was educated at Winchester and University College, Oxford, where he took a first class in history. In 1883, being then Viscount Wolmer, he married Lady Beatrix Cecil, 3rd daughter of the 3rd marquess of Salisbury. He served a political apprenticeship as assistant private secretary to the chancellor of the exchequer (Mr Childers) from 1882 to 1885, when he was elected Liberal member of parliament for East Hampshire. Like his father, he became a Liberal Unionist when in 1886 Mr Gladstone proposed Home Rule for Ireland, and he retained his seat till 1892, when he was elected for West Edinburgh. From 1895 to 1900 he was under-secretary for the colonies, having Mr Chamberlain as his chief, and during the difficult period before the outbreak of the South African War he came rapidly to the front. In 1900 he entered the cabinet as first lord of the admiralty, and held this office till 1905, when he succeeded Lord Milner as high commissioner for South Africa and governor of the Transvaal and Orange River colonies. He assumed office at Pretoria in May of that year. He had gone out with the intention of guiding the destinies of South Africa during a period when the ex-Boer republics would be in a transitional state between crown colony government and self-government, and letters patent were issued granting the Transvaal representative institutions. But the Liberal party came into office in England in the December following, before the new constitution had been actually established, and the decision was now taken to give both the Transvaal and Orange River colonies self-government without delay. Lord Selborne loyally accepted the changed situation, and it was due in considerable measure to his moderation, common sense, administrative gifts and appreciation of the Boers' standpoint, that the experiment proved successful. He ceased to be governor of the Orange River Colony on its assumption of self-government in June 1907, but retained his other posts until May 1910, retiring on the eve of the establishment of the Union of South Africa. No one had done more to effect that union. The despatch, dated January 7th, 1907, in which he reviewed the situation in its economic and political aspects, was a masterly and comprehensive statement of the dangers inherent in the existing system and of the advantages likely to attend union. The force of its appeal had a marked influence on the course of events, while the loyalty with which Lord Selborne co-operated with the Botha administration was an additional factor in reconciling the Dutch and British communities. He returned to England with his reputation as a statesman enhanced by the respect of all parties, and with a practical experience, second only to that of Lord Milner, of British imperialism in successful operation. This experience made him a valuable ally in the movement among the Unionist party at home for Tariff Reform and Colonial Preference, to which he could now give his whole-hearted support.