Milner, 1st Viscount Milner (1854-1925)
British statesman Alfred Milner, 1st Viscount Milner (1854-1925),
served as high commissioner of South Africa and later as a Cabinet
member. A public servant of great ability, he is closely associated
with British imperialism.
Milner was born on 23rd March 1854, at Giessen, Hesse-Darmstadt (Germany).
He lived part of his youth in Germany and part in England. His parents
were English, and his mother insisted that he be educated in English
schools. Young Milner distinguished himself at King's College School,
London, and at Balliol College, Oxford.
out on a legal career but then turned to journalism. He was interested
in many facets of economic policy and political administration. Because
of his known ability he moved about in influential government circles
and held a variety of official assignments. In 1884 he took the job
of private secretary to G. J. Goschen. The next year Milner helped
Goschen win a seat in the House of Commons, but Milner himself lost
a hard-fought contest for another constituency. Later, when Goschen
was chancellor of the Exchequer, Milner became his official private
secretary. He went from there to a financial position in Egypt under
Sir Evelyn Baring (later Lord Cromer). In 1892 Goschen brought Milner
back to England to become chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue,
where under both Liberals and Conservatives he was widely acclaimed.
in South Africa was approaching a deadlock when Milner was chosen
to go there as high commissioner in 1897. He believed in British imperialism
and the necessity of protecting British interests. Before many months
had passed, he became convinced that war was unavoidable. Milner refused
to alter Britain's policy, and he could not believe that the Boers
were acting in good faith when they sought a peaceful compromise.
The Boer War was the result, and it came to dominate the entire British
political scene. The long war ended with British military victory;
Milner was one of the signers of the peace treaty. He then put his
efforts into rebuilding South Africa after the war's destruction.
He is remembered for his part in the war and for his work in building
up the country's physical and economic base. In both he was a party
to controversial programs: concentration camps for civilians during
the war and the importation of Chinese workers to solve the labor
shortage following the war. Conditions of life in both instances led
to widespread condemnation by humanitarian groups in England and around
went back to England in the spring of 1905 after his tenure in South
Africa. He was respected for his abilities by leaders of both parties,
but he was always associated with the unpopular events in South Africa.
Although he was not a party politician, Milner's policy was closely
linked with that of the Conservatives, who were overwhelmingly defeated
in the election of 1906. Milner sat in the House of Lords after having
been made a viscount in 1902. There he opposed much of the legislation
sponsored by the Liberals.
When the crisis
of World War I came, Milner was called on again, first to increase
food production and then to be a member of Prime Minister David Lloyd
George's five-man War Cabinet, which ruled England from 1916 to 1918.
In the latter post he was active in every aspect of wartime planning.
He became war secretary in April 1918 and colonial secretary in December
retired in February 1921 after long service and at a time when his
views on imperialism were waning in popularity. He died on 13th May