Ramsay MacDonald

The Right Honourable
Ramsay MacDonald
FRS MP
Ramsay MacDonald ggbain 35734.jpg
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
5 June 1929 – 7 June 1935
Monarch George V
Preceded by Stanley Baldwin
Succeeded by Stanley Baldwin
In office
22 January 1924 – 4 November 1924
Monarch George V
Preceded by Stanley Baldwin
Succeeded by Stanley Baldwin
Leader of the Opposition
In office
4 November 1924 – 5 June 1929
Monarch George V
Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by Stanley Baldwin
Succeeded by Stanley Baldwin
In office
21 November 1922 – 22 January 1924
Monarch George V
Prime Minister Bonar Law
Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by H. H. Asquith
Succeeded by Stanley Baldwin
Leader of the Labour Party
In office
22 November 1922 – 1 September 1931
Deputy John Robert Clynes
Preceded by John Robert Clynes
Succeeded by Arthur Henderson
In office
6 February 1911 – 5 August 1914
Chief Whip George Henry Roberts
Arthur Henderson
Preceded by George Nicoll Barnes
Succeeded by Arthur Henderson
Lord President of the Council
In office
7 June 1935 – 28 May 1937
Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by Stanley Baldwin
Succeeded by The Viscount Halifax
Leader of the House of Commons
In office
5 June 1929 – 7 June 1935
Preceded by Stanley Baldwin
Succeeded by Stanley Baldwin
In office
22 January 1924 – 3 November 1924
Preceded by Stanley Baldwin
Succeeded by Stanley Baldwin
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
In office
22 January 1924 – 3 November 1924
Preceded by The Marquess Curzon
Succeeded by Austen Chamberlain
Member of Parliament
for the Combined Scottish Universities
In office
31 January 1936 – 9 November 1937
Preceded by Noel Skelton
Succeeded by Sir John Anderson
Member of Parliament
for Seaham
In office
30 May 1929 – 14 November 1935
Preceded by Sidney Webb
Succeeded by Emanuel Shinwell
Member of Parliament
for Aberavon
In office
15 November 1922 – 30 May 1929
Preceded by John Edwards
Succeeded by William Cove
Member of Parliament
for Leicester
In office
8 February 1906 – 14 December 1918
Serving with Henry Broadhurst, Franklin Thomasson, Eliot Crawshay-Williams, Sir Gordon Hewart
Preceded by John Rolleston
Henry Broadhurst
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born James MacDonald Ramsay
(1866-10-12)12 October 1866
Lossiemouth, Morayshire, Scotland, UK
Died 9 November 1937(1937-11-09) (aged 71)
Atlantic Ocean, (on holiday aboard the ocean liner Reina del Pacifico)
Resting place Spynie Cemetery, Morayshire
Nationality British
Political party Labour (until 1931)
National Labour (from 1931)
Spouse(s) Margaret Gladstone
(m. 1896; her death 1911)
Children 6
Parents John MacDonald
Anne Ramsay
Alma mater Birkbeck, University of London
Profession Journalist
Signature Cursive signature in ink

James Ramsay MacDonald, FRS [1] ( James McDonald Ramsay; 12 October 1866 – 9 November 1937) was a British statesman who was the first Labour Party Prime Minister, leading minority Labour governments in 1924 and 1929–1931. He headed a National Government from 1931 to 1935, dominated by Conservatives and supported by only a few Labour members. MacDonald was vehemently denounced by and expelled from the party he had helped to found.

MacDonald, along with Keir Hardie and Arthur Henderson, was one of the three principal founders of the Labour Party. He was chairman of the Labour MPs before 1914 and, after an eclipse in his career caused by his opposition to the First World War he was Leader of the Labour Party from 1922. The second Labour Government (1929-31) was dominated by the Great Depression. He formed the National Government to carry out spending cuts to defend the gold standard; the gold standard had to be abandoned after the Invergordon Mutiny and he called a general election in 1931 seeking a "doctor's mandate" to fix the economy. The National coalition won an overwhelming landslide and the Labour Party was reduced to a rump of around 50 seats in the House of Commons. His health deteriorated and he stood down as Prime Minister in 1935 and remained as Lord President of the Council until retiring in 1937. He died later that year.

MacDonald's speeches, pamphlets and books made him an important theoretician. Historian John Shepherd states that, "MacDonald's natural gifts of an imposing presence, handsome features and a persuasive oratory delivered with an arresting Highlands accent made him the iconic Labour leader." After 1931 MacDonald was repeatedly and bitterly denounced by the Labour movement as a traitor to their cause. Since the 1960s historians have defended his reputation, emphasising his earlier role in building up the Labour Party, dealing with the Great Depression, and as a forerunner of the political realignments of the 1990s and 2000s. [2]

Early life

Lossiemouth

MacDonald was born at Gregory Place, Lossiemouth, Morayshire, Scotland, the illegitimate son of John MacDonald, a farm labourer, and Anne Ramsay, a housemaid. [3] Registered at birth as James McDonald (sic) Ramsay, he was known as Jaimie MacDonald. Illegitimacy could be a serious handicap in 19th-century Presbyterian Scotland, but in the north and northeast farming communities, this was less of a problem; in 1868, a report of the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children, Young Persons and Women in Agriculture noted that the illegitimacy rate was around 15%, meaning that nearly every sixth person was born out of wedlock. [4] MacDonald's mother had worked as a domestic servant at Claydale farm, near Alves, where his father was also employed. They were to have been married, but the wedding never took place, either because the couple quarrelled and chose not to marry, or because Anne's mother, Isabella Ramsay, stepped in to prevent her daughter from marrying a man she deemed unsuitable. [5]

Bloody Sunday.

Ramsay MacDonald received an elementary education at the Free Church of Scotland school in Lossiemouth from 1872 to 1875, and then at Drainie parish school. He left school at the end of the summer term in 1881, at the age of 15, and began work on a nearby farm. In December 1881, he was appointed a pupil teacher at Drainie parish school. [6] In 1885, he left to take up a position as an assistant to Mordaunt Crofton, a clergyman in Bristol who was attempting to establish a Boys' and Young Men's Guild at St Stephen's Church. [7] It was in Bristol that Ramsay MacDonald joined the Democratic Federation, a Radical organization. This federation changed its name a few months later to the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). [8] [9] He remained in the group when it left the SDF to become the Bristol Socialist Society. In early 1886 he moved to London. [10]

Young semi-socialist in London

Following a short period of work addressing envelopes at the National Cyclists' Union in Fleet Street, he found himself unemployed and forced to live on the small amount of money he had saved from his time in Bristol. MacDonald eventually found employment as an invoice clerk in the warehouse of Cooper, Box and Co. [11] During this time he was deepening his socialist credentials, and engaged himself energetically in C. L. Fitzgerald's Socialist Union which, unlike the SDF, aimed to progress socialist ideals through the parliamentary system. [12] MacDonald witnessed the Bloody Sunday of 13 November 1887 in Trafalgar Square, and in response, had a pamphlet published by the Pall Mall Gazette, entitled Remember Trafalgar Square: Tory Terrorism in 1887. [13]

MacDonald retained an interest in Scottish politics. Gladstone's first Irish Home Rule Bill inspired the setting-up of a Scottish Home Rule Association in Edinburgh. On 6 March 1888, MacDonald took part in a meeting of London-based Scots, who, upon his motion, formed the London General Committee of Scottish Home Rule Association. [14] For a while he supported home rule for Scotland, but found little support among London's Scots. [15] However, MacDonald never lost his interest in Scottish politics and home rule, in Socialism: critical and constructive, published in 1921, he wrote: "The Anglification of Scotland has been proceeding apace to the damage of its education, its music, its literature, its genius, and the generation that is growing up under this influence is uprooted from its past." [16]

Politics in the 1880s was still of less importance to MacDonald than furthering his education. He took evening classes in science, botany, agriculture, mathematics, and physics at the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution but his health suddenly failed him due to exhaustion one week before his examinations. This put an end to any thought of a scientific career. [17] In 1888, MacDonald took employment as private secretary to Thomas Lough who was a tea merchant and a Radical politician. [18] Lough was elected as the Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for West Islington, in 1892. Many doors now opened to MacDonald: he had access to the National Liberal Club as well as the editorial offices of Liberal and Radical newspapers; he made himself known to various London Radical clubs among Radical and labour politicians. MacDonald gained valuable experience in the workings of electioneering. At the same time he left Lough's employment to branch out as a freelance journalist. Elsewhere as a member of the Fabian Society for some time, MacDonald toured and lectured on its behalf at the London School of Economics and elsewhere. [19]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Ramsay MacDonald
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Джэймз Рэмзі Макдоналд
български: Рамзи Макдоналд
čeština: Ramsay MacDonald
Esperanto: Ramsay MacDonald
français: Ramsay MacDonald
Bahasa Indonesia: Ramsay MacDonald
íslenska: Ramsay MacDonald
lietuvių: Ramsay MacDonald
Nederlands: Ramsay MacDonald
português: Ramsay MacDonald
Simple English: Ramsay MacDonald
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Ramsay MacDonald