The English statesman and diplomat Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3d Marquess of Salisbury (1830-1903), was prime minister of Great Britain in 1885-1886, 1886-1892, and 1895-1902. His life spanned the period of England's greatest affluence and power.
Lord Robert Cecil was born at Hatfield on Feb. 3, 1830, the second son of James Brownlow William Gascoyne-Cecil, 2d Marquess of Salisbury, Lord Privy Seal and Lord President of the Council, and of his wife, Frances Gascoyne, an heiress. Educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he received a fourthclass in mathematics, he was elected in 1853 to a fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, and in the same year was elected unopposed to the House of Commons for Stamford.
In July 1857 Cecil married Georgina Alderson, a woman of great ability. His father, however, objected to the marriage and cut off funds, so Cecil became partly dependent on his pen. He wrote for the Standard and the Saturday Review, but his most famous articles, such as "The Conservative Surrender," were published in the Quarterly. Cecil revealed in these articles his deep distrust of democracy, considering the poor as subject to more temptations. Cecil reached a wide public with his articles, and his style was "a rare model of restrained, pungent, and vigorous English."
On the death of his elder brother in 1865, Cecil became Lord Cranborne, and in July 1866 he was appointed secretary of state for India. On the death of his father in 1868, he entered the House of Lords as Marquess of Salisbury and in 1869 became chancellor of Oxford University. In 1874 the Conservatives were back in office, and Lord Salisbury was again at the India Office, where he was censured for refusing to check the export of wheat during a famine in Bengal.
After Lord Derby resigned from the Foreign Office in April 1878, Salisbury was appointed in his stead. Twentyfour hours later he issued the "Salisbury Circular," requiring all articles of the Treaty of San Stefano to be submitted to the proposed Berlin Conference. This speech did not prevent Salisbury from concluding a secret negotiation with the Russian ambassador to London by which the Balkans were to be divided. This secret convention was balanced by the Cyprus convention with Turkey, which secured for Britain the semblance of a diplomatic success at the Congress of Berlin (June 13-July 13, 1878). By the treaty provisions, Austria was to administer Bosnia and Herzegovina; the idea of a big Bulgaria was abandoned; and Russia received Kars, Ardahan, and Batum on condition it make Batum a free port.
In 1880 the Conservatives were defeated, and Salisbury became their leader in the Lords. In 1881 Benjamin Disraeli died, and on June 12, 1885, the Liberals fell. Salisbury became prime minister and foreign secretary. He made the protocol of Sept. 18, 1885, securing the Zulfikar Pass to the emir of Afghanistan, and he secured the eastern frontier of India against the French by the annexation of Burma. In Parliament he promoted a bill for the housing of the working classes that penalized landlords for renting unsanitary tenements.
In December 1885 the general election left the Irish members in command, and the government was defeated. Later that year Gladstone was defeated on home rule. Salisbury said in a speech that some races, such as the Hottentots and the Hindus, were unfit for self-government. A month later he became prime minister again, making Lord Randolph Churchill his chancellor of the Exchequer. In December, Churchill left the government, thinking thereby to force Salisbury's hand on the army estimates, but the latter appointed George Goschen in Churchill's place. In 1887 Salisbury initiated the first colonial conference, and in 1888 he granted a royal charter to the British East Africa Company by which England recovered its hold over the upper sources of the Nile.
In 1890 Germany acknowledged a British protectorate of Zanzibar; in exchange Salisbury gave up Helgoland. In 1899 he encouraged the British South Africa Company under Cecil Rhodes to colonize Rhodesia. The Portuguese claimed Matabeleland, but Salisbury sent an ultimatum to Lisbon, and Portugal yielded. In 1888 Salisbury introduced the Life Peerage Bill, which was withdrawn, and in 1891 he got the Free Education Act passed. In 1895 a coalition of Salisbury and Joseph Chamberlain won a majority. In 1897 the Working Men's Compensation Act was passed.
From 1895 to 1900 Salisbury pursued a policy of brinkmanship with each of the four Great Powers. In the United States, President Grover Cleveland declared that the British refusal of arbitration between British Guiana and Venezuela was a violation of the Monroe Doctrine, but the U.S. Commission decided in favor of Britain. Salisbury allowed the United States a free hand in Cuba, surrendered British rights in Samoa to the United States, and abrogated the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850 by allowing the United States to build the Panama Canal under American control. He had to deal with the Germans in 1896 over the Kaiser's telegram to Paul Kruger congratulating him on suppressing the Jameson Raid, and with the French from 1897, when Gen. Horatio Kitchener dislodged the French flag from Fashoda after his victory at Omdurman, until 1899, when they abandoned all designs on the Sudan. In 1899 the Czar's rescript led to the Hague Conference.
In 1900, after Salisbury had refused foreign mediation, the largest army ever assembled by England set off to fight the Boers. In 1902 Salisbury negotiated the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, and on May 31 peace was signed with the Boers. In July, Salisbury resigned, and he died on Aug. 22, 1903.
Salisbury's life is recounted in Samuel Henry Jeyes, Life and Times of the Marquis of Salisbury (4 vols., 1895-1896), and in Aubrey Leo Kennedy, Salisbury, 1830-1903: Portrait of a Statesman (1953). Aspects of his career are covered in Rose L. Greaves, Persia and the Defense of India, 1884-1892: A Study in the Foreign Policy of the Third Marquis of Salisbury (1959); J. A. S. Grenville, Lord Salisbury and Foreign Policy: The Close of the Nineteenth Century (1964); Cedric J. Lowe, Salisbury and the Mediterranean, 1886-1896 (1965); and Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, The Political Thought of Lord Salisbury, 1854-1868 (1967).