Posts Tagged ‘statesman’

Athenian statesman, contemprory of Demosthenes, the orator.

Phocion was a pupil of Plato and in later life a close friend of the Platonic philosopher Xenocrates. After serving Persia as a mercenary, he was drawn into Athens’ efforts to remain independent of Macedonia. In 348 his tactical skills saved an Athenian force sent to crush allies of Philip II in Euboea. He helped Megara (343) and Byzantium (340) defend themselves against Philip, but from about this time he regarded the Macedonians as unstoppable and cultivated diplomatic relations with them in order to avoid outright conquest. Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323, he advised against the Lamian War, though he led the defense against a Macedonian raid into Athenian territory. Sent to sue for peace the next year, he managed to reduce his city’s indemnities but was forced to accept the occupation of Athens’ port, Piraeus.

Phocion ruled Athens as Macedonia’s agent with great moderation and personal honesty. In the power struggle after the death of the regent in 319, however, he was deposed, convicted of treason, and was decreed the same death as meted out to Scrates, death by drinking hemlock. He was executed by Athenians hoping to restore democracy. Shortly afterward, the Athenians decreed a public burial and a statue in his honour.


When someone made a joke about his severe visage, and some of the local politicians he was not on good terms with laughed in response, he remarked, “My frown never yet made any of you sad, but these jolly men have given you plenty of sorrow.”

Demosthenes once said to Phocion that he might be killed some day, if the people became irrational. Phocion responded: “Yes; however, they would kill you if they came to their senses.” Demosthenes naturally described him as ‘the chopper of my speeches.’

Phocion’s recognized uprightness bestowed on him the cognomen “The Good”. Phocion could have been extremely wealthy, either by his offices or by the high commissions which were managed by him. Instead, he had an extremely frugal lifestyle. This was despite the fact that the entire Athenian political class was quite corrupt in that epoch.]

Philip II offered much money to him and the Macedonian heralds mentioned the future needs of his sons. Phocion responded, “If my sons are like me, my farm, which has enabled my present eminence, will suffice for them. If, instead, they become spoiled by luxury, I will not be the individual who will be guilty for that.”

Alexander sent a delegation to Phocion to offer him 100 talents, but he refused, saying: “I am an honorable man. I would not harm either Alexander’s reputation or mine.” Then, the king further offered him the government and possession of the cities Cius, Mylasa and Elaea. Phocion refused, but did request the release of some men enslaved at Sardis, who were promptly liberated. Soon afterward, Alexander died (323 BC).

In 322 BC, Harpalus arrived at Athens from Asia, seeking refuge. He tried to give 700 talents to Phocion, who rejected this offer. Phocion warned that he shouldn’t attempt to corrupt Athens or he would be punished. Consequently, the angry Harpalus turned the whole assembly against Phocion with his bribes. However, as Phocion kept helping him (with good will but within ethical limits), Harpalus approached Phocion’s son-in-law, Charicles, becoming a friend. Charicles eventually accepted a lavish commission to build a tomb for Harpalus’ mistress, and was investigated for corruption. Phocion refused to help him at the trial, saying: “I chose you to be my son-in-law only for honorable purposes.”

Phocion also refused presents from Menyllus. Phocion said: “You are not a better man than Alexander, so there is no reason to accept your gifts.” With his bribes, Menyllus then became a friend of Phocus.

(ack: wikipedia,Brittania encyclo.,)

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Robert Gascoyne-Cecil(1830-1903) was a descendent of Sir Robert Cecil of the Elizabethan fame. He was three times Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, from 1885 to 1886, 1886 to 1892 and 1895 and 1902 and also served four times as Foreign Secretary. His time as Prime Minister coincided with a great expansion of the British Empire. Lord Salisbury is also remembered as an adherent of the policy of “splendid isolation”, the desire to keep Great Britain out of European affairs and alliances. He was also the last British Prime Minister to serve from the Lords.
He was notoriously myopic and mistook people in his own cabinet and also his son. He once looked at the photograph of Edward VII and mistook him for Sir.Redvers Buller. Intemperate in speech( of Disraeli-‘the grain of dirt that clogged the political machine’) he was not above granting one of his nephews an out of turn favor. In 1887 he made Arthur Balfour from obscurity to front-line post of Chief Secretary for Ireland, a vital post that gave rise to the expression,’Bob’s your uncle.’ Subject to nervous storms, pessimistic, shambling he on a ceremonial occasion induced near apoplexy on his sovereign by appearing in a mixture of two uniforms.
A representative of the landed aristocracy, he held the reactionary credo, “Whatever happens will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible.” Instead of seeing his party’s victory in 1886 as a harbinger of a new and more popular Conservatism, he longed to return to the stability of the past, when his party’s main function was to restrain demagogic liberalism and democratic excess.
(ack: wikipedia, eminent Edwardians/Piers Brendon-Penguin-1979)

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George Clemenceau

GEORGE CLEMENCEAU (French) (1841 – 1929)

Clemenceau stood for the principles of the French Revolution – authoritarian, democratic, patriotic; he was a 20th Century Jacobin.
The French politician who had the most nicknames (Le Tombeur des Ministères, Le Tigre, Père la Victoire) and fought the most duels, he began his career as a radical deputy and outspoken journalist in continous conflict with catholics, royalists, moderates and Socialists. His greatest moment came in 1917 when P.M. for the second time, elderly and deaf, he still became the symbol and inspiration of the French determination to win the war. In the peace negotiations he tried to get security for France against Germany. Yet was attacked for not being more successful; he was defeated in the Presidential elections of 1920 and retired. He was an independent character:(In 1919 en route for same ceremony, he met Balfour in the lift. Balfour was wearing a top hat and Clemenceau, his battered deer stalker. A puzzled Balfour:”But they told me that I have to wear a silk hat”. Clemenceau replied:”They told me that too”). And a sardonic wit. (Si, seulement je pouvais passer comme Lloyd George parle).


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Lord Palmerston


Lord Palmerston, Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount (1774-1865)
While in charge of the War Office, he came under criticism from the radical MP’s for keeping a standing army even after the threat of Bonaparte was long past. Some of the Tories also sided with them and demanded that the military costs should be drastically reduced. Palmerston reminded them that the Army always became unpopular after every war was over and told them the story of the soldiers who marched out of London against the Jacobites in 1745.
“There go our brave guards! There go the pillars of the State.” Cried the people.
“Aye, “said one of the veterans, “but when we have licked the enemy the cry will be. ‘There go the caterpillars of the State.”

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Lord John Russell

Lord John Russell(1792- 1878)
John Russell, the third son of the 6th Duke of Bedford, had naturally absorbed from his father a concern for the poor. At the age of fourteen he wrote in his diary, “What a pity that he who steals a penny loaf should be hung, whilst he who steals thousands of the public money should be acquitted.”
Soon after he finished his studies in 1812 his father arranged for him to be elected to the family seat of Tavistock. He was also granted the courtesy title, Lord Russell. In the House of Commons Russell supported the Whigs and in 1817 he made a passionate speech against the decision by Lord Liverpool and his government to suspend Habeas Corpus. Russell also took an active part in the campaign for parliamentary reform.
When Sir Robert Peel resigned Lord Russell was asked to form a new government. Russell immediate problem was to deal with the potato famine in Ireland. Russell attempted to help by allocating £10 million to be spent on public works in Ireland. Russell also paved the way the passing of the 1847 Factory Act. The following year he managed to persuade parliament to accept his government’s Public Health Act that gave municipalities powers to set up local boards of health.
In December 1851 Lord Russell sacked his foreign minister, Lord Palmerston, after he had recognised the government formed by Napoleon III in France without consulting with his fellow cabinet ministers. His political career was marked by his love-hate relationship with a formidable foe as Palmerston.In July 1861 he was raised to the peerage as Earl Russell. He continued to hold the office of foreign secretary and when Lord Palmerston died in October, 1865, Russell once again became prime minister. One of his first decisions was to try again to persuade parliament to accept the parliamentary reform proposals(The bill which included reducing the qualification for the franchise to £10 in the counties to £6 in towns) that had been rejected in 1860. The majority of the MPs in the House of Commons were still opposed to further reform and after the government was defeated on a vote on 18th June 1866, Earl Russell resigned.
After listening to Lord Russell in the House of Commons in 1838, Charles Sumners wrote thus: “Lord John Russell rose in my mind the more I listened to him. In person diminutive and rickety, he wriggled round, played with his hat, and seemed unable to to dispose of his hands or his feet; his voice was small and thin, but notwithstanding this, a house of five hundred members was hushed to catch his smallest accents. You listened, and you felt that you had heard a man of mind, of thought, and of moral elevation.”

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(1815 – 1898)

The founder and first chancellor of the German Empire, was a political genius of the highest rank. At his best in foreign affairs, he was the principal architect of the age that gave Europe 26 years of Peace after the Congress of Berlin (1878). He was born on the 1st of April at Schönhausen, Brandenburg, former East Germany. After reading law Bismarck entered Prussian service and became a judicial administrator at Aachen; his conduct was unconventional and the criticism of his official superiors drove him to resign from service at the age of 24. In 1847 he became a member of the quasi-representative United Diet. Bismarck gained prominence in 1851 when he was chosen to represent Prussia in Federal Diet. In 1859 he was sent to St. Petersburg as ambassador only to be recalled in March 1862 and ‘sent as ambassador to Paris’. Finally, on September 22 he returned to Berlin to become Prime Minister devoting himself to the task of limiting Germany under Prussian leadership. In the war of 1866 he succeeded in defeating Austria and excluding it altogether from Germany.

He involved his country in the Franco-German War (1870-’71), a conflict that ended with Prussian success and a measure of unity. On March 21, 1871 Bismarck, now a hero, was created a Prince and appointed imperial chancellor. He initiated internal administrative reforms for the remainder of the decade, developing a common currency, a central bank and a single code of commercial and civil law for Germany. In foreign affairs he presided over the Congress of Berlin and this seemed to symbolize his paramount position as mediator between the great powers.
He was also the first statesman in Europe to devise a comprehensive scheme of social security, offering workers insurance against accident, sickness and old age. By 1890 his politics had begun to come under increasing attack, on March 18, 1890, two years after Wilhelm II’s ascension to the throne, Bismarck was forced to resign.
His last years were devoted to discrediting the Emperor and in composing his memoirs.

Bismarck’s most important legacy is the unification of Germany a task tried but failed since the formation of the Holy Roman Empire. Following unification, Germany became one of the most powerful nations in Europe. Bismarck’s astute, cautious, and pragmatic foreign policies allowed Germany to retain peacefully the powerful position which was however not possible as power was concentrated in the new emperor’s hands. Wilhelm I rarely challenged the Chancellor’s decisions; on several occasions, Bismarck obtained his monarch’s approval by threatening to resign. However, Wilhelm II intended to govern the country himself, making the ousting of Bismarck one of his first tasks as Kaiser. His Weltpolitik to secure the Reich’s future through expansion undid diplomatic feats of the Iron Chancellor. It would ultimately lead to World War I. It also made the Kaiser play into hands of the military whereas Bismarck’s policy was to deny them a dominant voice in foreign political decision-making. This was overturned by 1914 as Germany became an armed state; although the Emperor and his cabinet formally retained the power, military officers played an increasingly influential role in the Cabinet.
His Far-seeing vision
In February 1888, during a Bulgarian crisis, Bismarck addressed the Reichstag on the dangers of a European war.
He warned of the imminent possibility that Germany will have to fight on two fronts; he spoke of the desire for peace; then he set forth the Balkan case for war and demonstrated its futility: “Bulgaria, that little country between the Danube and the Balkans, is far from being an object of adequate importance… for which to plunge Europe from Moscow to the Pyrenees, and from the North Sea to Palermo, into a war whose issue no man can foresee. At the end of the conflict we should scarcely know why we had fought.”
Bismarck also repeated his emphatic warning against any German military involvement in Balkan disputes. Bismarck had first made this famous comment to the Reichstag in December 1876, when the Balkan revolts against the Ottoman Empire threatened to extend to a war between Austria and Russia.
Subsequently, Bismarck made this accurate prediction:
“Jena came twenty years after the death of Frederick the Great; the crash will come twenty years after my departure if things go on like this” ― a prophecy fulfilled almost to the month. ( ack:wikipedia)
(This a revised and expanded version of the pen portrait posted earlier.)

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Who is the greatest British political figure in the twenty century? Winston Churchill or David Lloyd George? Historians are divided over this though in their political career they were considered as terrible twins. Both had switched sides and had facility with words to mask their real intents.
Lloyd George had an instrumental attitude to political parties. Parties were there to achieve objectives, they were not ends in themselves. But such an attitude made him widely distrusted. He had actually proposed a coalition to the Unionists in 1910 when there were inter-party talks over the constitutional crisis.
he was not the leader of the Liberal Party and depended heavily upon the support of the Unionists. And for all his energy, dynamism, and popularity with the public, he failed to get control of the army. He could not get rid of General Haig though he bitterly opposed the heavy loss of manpower in Flanders in 1917. In the 1918 general election Lloyd George led the coalition to a landslide victory, but it was largely a Unionist majority and many in the party had little loyalty to him. The divided Liberals did badly and Labour became the official opposition. Lloyd George’s plans to fuse the Unionists and his own Liberal followers into a new centre party came to nothing.(oxford dictionary of political bio: DLG)
Rejection of his controversial “People’s Budget” (to raise taxes for social programs) in 1909 by the House of Lords led to a constitutional crisis and passage of the Parliament Act of 1911. He devised the National Insurance Act of 1911, which laid the foundation of the British welfare state.
The Welsh Wizard also could be so wrong, as it is seen in his view of Hitler as a threat to Peace.
On 22nd September 22, 1933, Lloyd George declared in a speech at Barmouth: “If the Powers succeed in overthrowing Nazism in Germany, what would follow? Not a Conservative, Socialist or Liberal regime, but extreme Communism. Surely that could not be their objective. A Communist Germany would be infinitely more formidable than a Communist Russia.” 

In September 1936 Lloyd George visited Adolf Hitler in an attempt to persuade him not to stop taking military action in Europe. After his arrival back in Britain he wrote in the Daily Express : “I have now seen the famous German leader and also something of the great change he has effected. Whatever one may think of his methods – and they are certainly not those of a Parliamentary country – there can be no doubt that he has achieved a marvellous transformation in the spirit of the people, in their attitude towards each other, and in their social and economic outlook. One man has accomplished this miracle. He is a born leader of men. A magnetic dynamic personality with a single-minded purpose, a resolute will, and a dauntless heart.”
Although Lloyd George agreed that Germany had been badly treated after the First World War, he was opposed to the British government’s policy of appeasement.
David Lloyd George died on 26th March, 1945.((Spartacus study notes)

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