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Chamberlain's Legacy

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Joseph Chamberlain, the father of Neville Chamberlain. In OTL, he was a footnote in history, an obscure radical imperialist who started as one of the rising stars of the Liberal Party and ended a man who split his party and joined the Conservatives. Instead, he becomes Prime Minister in 1886 as a result of his "Imperial Sitting Bill".

Please Note: This is the only Point of Divergence- every change in the timeline is a result of this- while it may not seem obvious at the moment, it all links in.

Developed by Allblackofneath 23:36, 30 August 2008 (UTC)

Major Impacts

Background

By 1885, British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone (Liberal) had become convinced that the only way to deal with the troubles in Ireland was Home Rule. At the same time, he was uneasy concerning the factions of his party- which was a very wide consensus of the centre/centre-left. Joseph Chamberlain was, at this time a figurehead of the radical faction of the Liberal Party, but he was also an Imperialist and his personality tended to clash with Mr. Gladstone's. It could be suggested that Gladstone made the Irish Home Rule Bill of 1886 unnecessarily extreme so to force the “Chamberlainites” out of the Party.

On May 26th 1886, William Gladstone announced to his Cabinet the Bill. Chamberlain asked him a series of questions. It transpired that Ireland was to no longer have representation at Westminster and the Irish Parliament would have right over taxation including customs and excise. With that Chamberlain rose and with a very British simplicity said “Then I resign” and left the Cabinet Room.

The Point of Divergence

In the real timeline, Chamberlain essentially left the Party and became a Conservative under the banner of Liberal Unionist. The Bill was defeated by Parliament and Chamberlain would go on to split the Conservative Party over Free Trade and Protectionism. He died as probably the only man to have split the two major parties from within. However, in this timeline, he died with his dream of a Federal Empire realised and the Grandfather of the Modern Welfare State.

Following his departure from the Cabinet, Chamberlain came to the conclusion that the only way to save Ireland, as he saw it, was to introduce his own Bill, the “Imperial Sitting Bill” as a private member’s bill. The hope was that as well as his own very loyal supporters, he would draw enough of the rest of the Liberal Party and Conservatives who were afraid, as he was of destroying the Empire, to support him. The Bill, which was put before Parliament just prior to Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill quite miraculously, passed both Houses of Parliament. The Bill meant that MPs from the 17 Counties of Southern Ireland would sit in Dublin for most internal matters, while they would sit in the House of Commons for “Imperial Sittings” concerning matters such as Defence and the National Budget.

Immediate Effects

Chamberlain had pulled off the political coup of the century. The Irish Nationalists saw the Bill as their best chance of some independence and so backed it. Chamberlain had also managed to convince many of the Liberal Party that Gladstone’s Bill was far too extreme and that it would only cause problems. He had appealed to the large number of Liberal MPs who were non-conformist by proposing that the 9 Counties of Ulster would not sit in Dublin. There had been fears that Ulster, the population of which was largely Protestant would be overwhelmed by the Catholic majority in Ireland. Further, he had convinced a large number of Conservatives that the bill would preserve the Empire.

Gladstone took the passing of the Bill personally and tendered his resignation as Prime Minister. Queen Victoria, on the instruction of her advisers, called for Joseph Chamberlain. Having become Prime Minister, he requested that Parliament be dissolved so to call a General Election. Chamberlain’s Imperial Coalition won the 1886 General Election handsomely.

Explanations

  • London's population is larger (20,000,000) by the fact that it is the centre of such a large nation- there would no doubt be an influx of people from across the Commonwealth, and the city would expand outwards.

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