In imperial affairs the action of Campbell-Bannerman (who first gave currency to the phrase "British commonwealth of nations") in granting autonomy to the Boer States, made possible the Union of South Africa and healed an ancient sore ; in India the Morley Minto reforms marked a long advance towards self-government. The self-governing members of the empire were drawn closely together—and in the series of conferences which began in 1907 their representatives were for the first time admitted to the arcana of foreign policy and imperial defence, and helped to reorganize their military system, with results that were of the highest importance during the World War. But in spite of these preoccupations, the main work of these years was one of social reorganization in a series of novel enactments which implied the adoption of a new view of the functions of the State. These enact ments included universal workmen's compensation, a system of old age pensions, State insurance against sickness and unemploy ment, the establishment of a network of labour exchanges, the institution of trade boards for the fixation of wages in sweated trades, the creation of a large system of small holdings, the con ferment upon municipalities of large powers and duties for hous ing and town-planning. The means for carrying out these reforms were formed by a system of progressive taxation of the rich, through graduated income-tax, super-tax and death-duties, which involved a substantial redistribution of wealth. These financial methods are now a part of the established system of British government. But they aroused bitter opposition, which culminated when the budget of 1909 not only tightened the screw at many points, but threatened an attack upon the existing land-system through taxes on land values. The rejection of this budget by the House of Lords led Lo an acute constitutional crisis, which (after two general elections in 191o) brought about the destruction of the Lords' veto by the Parliament Act (1911). The first use made of this act was to pass a Home Rule bill, against fierce opposition. At the same time a huge land-campaign was in preparation. The whole character of the legislation of these strenuous years shows that the outlook of the Liberal Party had undergone a great change. It had never been more confident or more militant than in 1914.
Post-war Period.—The war and the events which followed it shattered the party. This sudden debacle is not difficult to explain. The party was hopelessly split when, in 1916, Lloyd George dis placed Asquith from the premiership, and when at the election of 1918 those who stood aloof from Lloyd George were displaced by the "coupon." The small remnant of Independent Liberals were so obsessed by their grievance that they made themselves appear a querulous and negative party; they had no constructive policy to preach ; and this was a grave weakness at a time when millennial expectations were being created and immense promises made to the electorate. After the break-up of the coalition in 1922, there were for a time two mutually distrustful Liberal groups in parliament. They reunited in 1923, to resist a new attack upon
free trade, and returned as a solid body of 15o. But they were substantially smaller than the Labour Party, and the tactical blunder of putting that party into office without conditions involved a dilemma, which ended in the disaster of the election of 1924. What was worse, their internal dissensions were re doubled. On the occasion of reunion, Lloyd George was urged to put into a common fund the large financial resources separately acquired by the coalition Liberals in the previous years. He refused to go so far. On this subject a bitter feud raged. It was intensified when in 1926 a difference between Lord Oxford (for merly H. H. Asquith) and Lloyd George in regard to the general strike of that year led to a formal excommunication of the latter, which the bulk of the party refused to accept. These dissensions seemed to make a revival of Liberalism all but impossible. But the party has refused to accept sentence of death. Ever since the war, and especially since 1924, important elements in the party have been at work upon a series of enquiries into the various problems of the post-war period. Their reports—Coal and Power (1924), The Land and the Nation (1925), Towns and the Land (1926) and, most notable of the series, Britain's Industrial Future (1928)—amount to a restatement of the Liberal position. In the party polled 3,000,00o votes, though candidates were only put up in little more than half of the constituencies; if the seats won had been in proportion to the votes cast, the Liberal Party in the Commons would number 110 instead of 4o. Since 1927 a sys tematic reorganization has been undertaken.
The organization of the party is as follows. In each active constituency there is an association, and usually also separate organizations for women and young people. The local associa tions select their own candidates, and in many cases maintain an agent. Some of them are self-supporting; others are helped by the candidate or by headquarters. The number of self-supporting associations has been considerably increased in the last few years. The associations are federated into ten districts in England and Wales: Scotland maintains a separate organization. They are all also combined in the National Liberal Federation, which holds at least one annual conference; and resolutions adopted at these conferences are held to constitute the official policy of the party. The executive of the National Liberal Federation is composed of delegates from the districts. With the addition of representatives of the parliamentary party and some others, it constitutes the supreme administrative committee of the party, and controls all the party funds. It appoints a small organization committee, the chairman of which (in 1928 Sir Herbert Samuel) is the working head of the party machine, and shares the functions of leadership with the leaders of the party in the two houses. (R. Mu.)