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affairs, and business immediately began to suffer severely, though it was by no means brought to a standstill.
The Government meanwhile had already taken steps to deal with a situation for which it had long been preparing. In accordance with the scheme made public in the previous October, the country was divided into a number of areas, each of which was put in charge of a Commissioner armed with special powers for ensuring the maintenance of the food supply and of essential public services. The strike leaders had disclaimed any intention of interfering with these requirements, but the Government did not trust them. In order to replace the labour which had been withdrawn by the strike, it opened offices for the enrolment of volunteer workers, and these immediately came forward in large numbers. Hundreds of thousands of special constables were also enrolled to assist the police. Before the first day of the strike was over a huge army of volunteers was engaged in transporting food supplies by motor, running trains and buses, and other services, and the public was not so terribly incommoded by the situation as to be unable to relish its novelty.
The Government's measures for securing the food supply proved entirely effective, and the only adverse result of the strike in this sphere was to cause a rise of the price of milk by twopence a quart in the London district. Day by day the army of volunteers increased and became more efficient. At first it had been recruited mainly from the middle and upper classes, with large University contingents conspicuous alike in manners and habiliments. After the first two or three days unemployed workers began to enrol freely, and then strikers began to drift back in considerable numbers, especially after the Government gave them a guarantee of protection. Conditions rapidly became more tolerable for the general public. On the second day of the strike the only papers procurable had been the official news-sheets of the Government and the Trade Unions, the British Gazette and the British Worker, and the Paris edition of the Daily Mail; but on the third day The Times appeared in an attenuated form, and it was soon followed by several other of the leading morning papers. The Government also kept the public more or less informed of the course of events by means of broadcasting. Within a week a hundred thousand men had returned to work on the railways, and it was found possible to run skeleton services between all the great centres. The Post Office had already made elaborate arrangements for carrying mails by motor vehicles and aeroplanes, and these proved a fairly efficient substitute for the railways.
On May 5 Parliament confirmed the Government in the emergency powers which it had assumed for dealing with the strike, and the Premier again expressed the view that the strike was an attack on the Constitution and an attempt on the part
of the Trade Union Council to usurp the authority of the Government. This view was assiduously disseminated by the British Gazette, which did not by any means confine itself to the publication of news of the strike. The Government was, on the whole, strongly supported by the middle classes in its determination not to renew negotiations while the strike lasted. A conspicuous exception was furnished from a somewhat unexpected quarter. < On May 6 the Archbishop of Canterbury, after consultation with the chief ministers of all the Protestant denominations, issued an appeal to the Government in which he deprecated the turning of the strike into a political issue, and called on the Government to procure a simultaneous cessation of the lock-out and the strike. The Government, however, was able to pit the Cardinal of Westminster, who strongly supported its action, against the Archbishop, and turned a deaf ear to the latter's appeal.
The Government exposed itself to much adverse criticism by refusing permission to broadcast the Archbishop's appeal-a step which seemed to show that it was afraid of the impression which his words might make upon the public. This idea was strengthened by the fact that the British Gazette neglected to print the document till attention had been drawn to the fact in Parliament. Mr. Churchill, who meanwhile had taken over the editorship of the Gazette, made the lame excuse that the appeal had not come to his notice. This was not the only debate in which members of the Opposition animadverted on the tendencious character of the Gazette, and objected to the use of public money for partisan purposes.
The treatment by the Government of the Archbishop's appeal gave Mr. Lloyd George the opportunity to make a slashing attack on its policy on May 10, but other leading members of the Liberal Party-Lord Oxford, Lord Grey, Lord Buckmaster, Sir John Simon, and Mr. Runciman-expressed unqualified support of the Government's policy. This tribute from its political opponents was highly gratifying to the Government; it was particularly pleased with a speech made by Sir John Simon in the House of Commons on May 6 in which that distinguished lawyer asserted categorically that a general strike was illegal, and that the funds of the unions which participated in it were not protected from attachment by the Trade Disputes Act. This opinion was at once disputed by Sir Henry Slesser, the ex-Attorney General of the Labour Government, and on closer examination proved to be untenable, but during the rest of the strike it was given a prominent place in Government propaganda.
The assertion of the Government that the general strike was an attempt on the part of the Trade Union Council to usurp the authority of the Government was stoutly denied by the Labour leaders, who maintained that the strike was declared purely as a manifestation of sympathy with the miners, and had no political
motive. The circumstances in which the strike was declared lent colour to the Government's view, but the moderate tone of the speeches of the Labour leaders in the course of the week and the orderly way in which the strike was conducted led a considerable portion of the public to revise its opinion and to suspect the Government of having raised an unreal issue. To combat this impression, the Prime Minister, on the night of May 8, broadcasted a message to the nation in which he reiterated the grounds for regarding the strike as an attack on the community, and declared his readiness to reopen negotiations as soon as it was called off. The Trade Union Council, in reply, repeated its assertion that the struggle was an industrial one, and that the question of the Constitution was not involved, so far as they were concerned, and it called upon the Prime Minister to make it clear that the lock-out notices would be withdrawn if the general strike was cancelled.
Before the strike had lasted many days, it became obvious that, if it came to a contest of endurance between the public and the strikers, the former would certainly win unless the latter could resort to some more drastic action than they had hitherto taken. Recognising this, the Trade Union Council, on the fourth or fifth day of the strike, took some half-hearted steps for extending it, by calling on the flour millers and the engineers to stop work. The call was obeyed very partially, and no essential services were stopped nor was the bread supply anywhere jeopardised. Owing to the changed attitude of the unions, the Government, on May 8, had a large consignment of food convoyed by armoured cars from the docks to the food depot in Hyde Park--the only active display of military force made during the strike.
By the end of a week, if not earlier, the Trade Union Council were convinced that the Government was not to be deflected from its resolution, and that it was useless to prolong the strike. An opportunity of ending it in what seemed to be an honourable manner soon presented itself. On the outbreak of the strike Sir Herbert Samuel, who was then in Italy, had cut short his holiday there and returned to England in order to lend his assistance in working for a settlement. He immediately got into touch with the Trade Union Council, and entered with them into negotiations which he took care to impress upon them were entirely unofficial, and in no way committed the Government. While the negotiations were going on, however, the Prime Minister considerably strengthened his hands by broadcasting, on May 12, a message in which he urged the strikers to return to work, and promised that the Government would use every effort to see that they were reinstated fully, and also that the miners secured fair terms.
On May 11, the eighth day of the strike, Sir Herbert Samuel
laid before the Trade Union Council the draft of a memorandum containing a number of proposals the adoption of which by the various parties would, he thought, promote a settlement of the differences in the coal industry. The memorandum contained nothing that was not already expressed or implied in the Coal Commission's Report, but it stressed the point that no reduction should be made in wages before reorganisation was taken in hand, and recommended the renewal of the subsidy for such period as might be required for the completion of negotiations. The Council, on the same day, laid the memorandum before the Miners' Executive, with a statement that in their opinion it contained the best terms which could be obtained to settle the present crisis in the coal industry." Noting that the proposals
at best" implied a reduction of wage rates of a large number of mine workers, the Miners' Executive rejected them. Nevertheless the Council, on the next day, wrote to Sir Herbert Samuel saying that in their opinion the memorandum offered a basis on which negotiations on conditions in the coal industry might be renewed, and stating that they were taking the necessary measures to terminate the general strike, relying on the public assurances of the Prime Minister as to the steps that would follow.
Shortly after midday on the same day a deputation from the Trades Union Congress General Council called at 10 Downing Street, where they were received by the Prime Minister in company with several members of the Cabinet. Mr. Pugh, on behalf of the Council, referred to the Premier's broadcasted message of the previous Saturday (May 12), which, he said, was something that they on their side could not ignore, and stated that they also had been exploring other possibilities with full knowledge that negotiations would have to be renewed at some time. As a result, therefore, of these activities on both sides they had come to say that the general strike was to be terminated forthwith in order that negotiations might proceed. The Prime Minister, in reply, undertook to lose no time in using every endeavour to bring the two contending parties together and to procure a just and lasting settlement. Mr. Thomas and Mr. Bevin sought an assurance from the Premier that he would urge employers to reinstate their men fully, and Mr. Bevin further also expressed the hope that he would get the miners back to work before reopening negotiations. Mr. Baldwin did not commit himself at once, and bade them wait till he made a statement in Parliament.
The news that the strike was over was naturally heard with intense relief by Parliament and the public. Mr. Baldwin received an ovation from a dense crowd on coming out of Downing Street. The King issued a message to the nation from Buckingham Palace urging the people to forget any bitterness which might have been caused by the events of the preceding few days, and to work unitedly for a lasting peace. The Prime Minister also
broadcasted a message in which he said that the strike had ended as he had said it must end, without conditions being entered into by the Government, and expressed thanks to the army of volunteers who had helped the Government by maintaining essential services. He called upon employers to act with generosity and on workers to put their whole hearts loyally into their work.
The heartfelt appeal of the Prime Minister fell, at first, on deaf ears. Not only did the miners persist in their refusal to make any concessions, but the cessation of the general strike was the signal for the outbreak of a trade dispute on the railways. In accordance with their promise to the Premier, the Trade Union Council despatched instructions to the Executives of the unions concerned to call off the strike. In many places the course taken by the Council was bitterly resented by the workers, who regarded it as a base betrayal, and they soon found a valid excuse for not resuming work. Many, on presenting themselves to their employers, were informed either that they could not be taken back at once or could only be taken back under less favourable conditions than they formerly enjoyed. On May 13, the day after the calling off of the strike, the Railway Managers' Association, representing the principal railway groups, met in London and announced that "in the interests of the public and to safeguard future peace and discipline on the railways," the companies would reserve any rights they possessed in the matter of taking back any man who had broken his contract of service. At the same time they emphatically denied rumours which were being circulated that the companies were refusing to take men back except with wage reductions. The Executives of the three great railway unions immediately met to consider this announcement, and after a brief deliberation telegraphed to their various branches to continue the strike until satisfactory assurances were received. In accordance with this instruction, men at many places refused to return to work except in a body and with full reinstatement. The dockers also at most of the seaports refused to resume unless they received "satisfactory assurances. The Trade Union Council on the same day issued a statement in which it declared that peace depended on the employers abstaining from attempts at victimisation, and called upon the Prime Minister to stop the attack on trade unionism.
Thus, while the general strike as such had ceased, the separate strikes of which it had been composed continued with unabated vigour, and the general public was left in the same predicament as before. But wiser councils soon prevailed. On the next day the railway companies agreed with the union leaders to reinstate all the men who had struck work as soon as possible, stipulating, however, that the men should admit they had acted wrongly and should pledge themselves not to strike again without notice,