MacDonald, James Ramsay

James Ramsay MacDonald

b. 12 Oct 1866, Lossiemouth, Morayshire, Scotland
d. 9 Nov 1937, at sea en route to South America [1]

Title: Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury
Term: 22 Jan 1924 - 4 Nov 1924
Chronology: 22 Jan 1924, invited to form an Administration and accepted the offer to hold the post of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, audiences of the King, Buckingham Palace, London [2][3]
  23 Jan 1924, took the oath of office as First Lord of the Treasury before the King in Council, Buckingham Palace, London [4]
  4 Nov 1924, tendered resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury (accepted), audience of the King, Buckingham Palace, London [5]
Term: 5 Jun 1929 - 24 Aug 1931
Chronology: 5 Jun 1929, invited to form an Administration and accepted the offer to hold the post of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, audience of the King, Windsor Castle [6][7]
  8 Jun 1929, took the oath of office as First Lord of the Treasury before the King in Council, Windsor Castle [8]
  24 Aug 1931, tendered resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury (accepted), audience of the King, Buckingham Palace, London [9]
Term: 24 Aug 1931 - 7 Jun 1935
Chronology: 24 Aug 1931, invited to form an Administration and accepted the offer to hold the post of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, audience of the King, Buckingham Palace, London [9][10]
  26 Aug 1931, took the oath of office as First Lord of the Treasury before the King in Council, Buckingham Palace, London [11]
  7 Jun 1935, tendered resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury (accepted), audience of the King, Buckingham Palace, London [12]
Names/titles: Name as per birth certificate: recorded as "James McDonald Ramsay, child of Anne Ramsay"; for most of his life known as James Ramsay MacDonald
Biography:

The son of an unmarried maidservant and probably of a farm laborer; received education at the Free Kirk school in Lossiemouth (to 1875) and Church of Scotland school in Drainie (1875-1881); was the pupil-teacher at Drainie (1881-1885); moved to London where he found employment as a clerk (1886); attended evening classes at the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution, London (1887-1888); in 1888-1892 he was engaged as a private secretary to Thomas Lough, tea merchant and later Member of Parliament (1892-1918), but left to pursue career as a journalist, writer and lecturer; joined the Independent Labour Party (1894); represented Central Finsbury on the London County Council (1901-1904); served as secretary of the Labour Representation Committee (Labour Party from 1906); after loosing two elections (1895, 1900), he was returned to Parliament in 1906, representing Leicester (1906-1918); served as Chairman of the Independent Labour Party (1906-1909); wrote a series of books from 1905 to 1913 defining 'socialism' and having a strong evolutionary sense; was elected Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party (6 Feb 1911 - 5 Aug 1914), but had to resign over the war credit issue; his attitude to World War I left him branded as a pacifist and he was defeated at the 1918 General Election; again returned to Parliament as representative of Aberavon, Wales (1922-1929), Seaham, Durham (1929-1935), and Combined Scottish Universities (1936-1937); Chairman and Leader of the Labour Party (21 Nov 1922 - 28 Aug 1931); with the help of H.H. Asquith, he was offered the post of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury (22 Jan 1924 - 4 Nov 1924); sworn in as a member of the UK Privy Council (22 Jan 1924) and appointed Prime Minister, leading the first Labour government in British history; took the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (23 Jan 1924 - 7 Nov 1924); took particular interest in reparations between France and Germany and held a cautious view of the new Soviet Union; in domestic affairs, he turned his attention to housing and education, but the General Election of 29 Oct 1924 affected by publication of the so-called 'Zinoviev letter' returned the Conservatives to power (Unionist/Conservative 412, Labour 151, Liberal 40, Constitutionalists 7, others 5); formed his second government after the Labour Party for the first time won the most seats in the 1929 General Election (Labour 287, Unionist/Conservative 260, Liberal 59, Nationalist Party 3, others 6); was forced to resign because of economic crash of 1931, but the King asked him to form a National Government (23 Aug 1931) with Conservative and Liberal support; considered to be a traitor, he was expelled from the Labour Party (28 Sep 1931); called the General Election asking for a mandate to save the country and won a huge majority: National Government 554 (Unionist/Conservative 471, Liberal National 35, Liberal 33, National Labour 13, National 2), Opposition 56 (Labour 52, Independent Liberal 4), independent 5; formed his fourth administration and left domestic matters to colleagues but continued to be active in foreign affairs; presided at a Four Power Conference in London and attended the Disarmament Conference in Geneva (1932); summoned a World Economic Conference (1933), but it was doomed by the refusal of the US government to agree to the stabilization of currency; increasingly incapacitated by illness and tiredness resigned the premiership (7 Jun 1935) and assumed the sinecure office of Lord President of the Council (7 Jun 1935 - 28 May 1937) in the Cabinet formed by Stanley Baldwin; ceased to be a minister after the resignation of Baldwin (1937), and died later that year on a voyage to South America. Biography source: [13]


[1] On the liner Reina del Pacifico on a holiday voyage to South America; died during the crossing of the Atlantic between La Rochelle, France and Bermuda (The Times, No. 47,838, Royal Edition, London Wednesday November 10 1937, p. 14).
[2] The Times, No. 43,556, Royal Edition, London, Wednesday, January 23, 1924, p. 15: "Court Circular. BUCKINGHAM PALACE, Jan. 22. <...> The Marquess of Salisbury had an audience of The King previous to the Council, and the Right Hon. James Ramsay MacDonald, M.P., had an audience of His Majesty after the Council, when The King invited him to form an administration. <...> The King gave further audience this afternoon to the Right Hon. James Ramsay MacDonald, M.P., who accepted His Majesty's offer of the post of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury and kissed hands upon his appointment."
[3] Appointment as Lord Commissioner of the Treasury by Letters Patent under the Great Seal is dated 23 Jan 1924, announced by the Crown Office 11 Feb 1924, and gazetted 12 Feb 1924 (The London Gazette, No. 32907, Tuesday, 12 February, 1924, p. 1265).
[4] The Times, No. 43,557, Royal Edition, London, Thursday, January 24, 1924, p. 13: "Court Circular. BUCKINGHAM PALACE, Jan. 23. <...> The King held a Council this morning. <...> The Right Hon. James Ramsay MacDonald, M.P., was sworn First Lord of the Treasury ; and received the Seal, took the Oath and kissed hands upon his appointment as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."; The London Gazette, No. 32901, Friday, 25 January, 1924, p. 769.
[5] The Times, No. 43,801, Royal Edition, London, Wednesday, November 5, 1924, p. 17: "Court Circular. BUCKINGHAM PALACE, Nov. 4. <...> The Right Hon. James Ramsay MacDonald had an audience of The King this afternoon, and tendered his resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, which His Majesty was graciously pleased to accept."
[6] The Times, No. 45,222, Royal Edition, London, Thursday, June 6, 1929, p. 17: "Court Circular. WINDSOR CASTLE, June 5. <...> The Right Hon. James Ramsay MacDonald, M.P., was received in Audience by The King this morning, when His Majesty invited him to form an Administration. The Right Hon. James Ramsay MacDonald, M.P., accepted His Majesty's offer of the post of Prime Minister and Kissed Hands upon his appointment."
[7] Appointment as Lord Commissioner of the Treasury by Letters Patent under the Great Seal is dated 8 Jun 1929, announced by the Crown Office 28 Jun 1929, and gazetted 2 Jul 1929 (The London Gazette, No. 33513, Tuesday, 2 July, 1929, p. 4357).
[8] The Times, No. 45,225, Royal Edition, London, Monday, June 10, 1929, p. 19: "Court Circular. WINDSOR CASTLE, June 8. The King held a Council this morning at 11.30 o'clock. <...> The Right Hon. James Ramsay MacDonald, M.P., was sworn First Lord of the Treasury, and Kissed Hands upon appointment."; The London Gazette, No. 33505, Tuesday, 11 June, 1929, p. 3855.
[9] The Times, No. 45,910, Royal Edition, London, Tuesday, August 25, 1931, p. 15: "Court Circular. BUCKINGHAM PALACE, Aug. 24 <...> The Right Hon. J. Ramsay MacDonald had an audience of The King this afternoon, and tendered his resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, which His Majesty was graciously pleased to accept. The King subsequently gave further audience to the Right Hon. J. Ramsay MacDonald and invited him to form a National Administration. The Right Hon. J. Ramsay MacDonald accepted His Majesty's offer of the Post of Prime Minister, and kissed hands upon appointment."
[10] Appointment as Lord Commissioner of the Treasury by Letters Patent under the Great Seal is dated 26 Aug 1931, announced by the Crown Office 10 Sep 1931, and gazetted 11 Sep 1931 (The London Gazette, No. 33752, Friday, 11 September, 1931, p. 5900).
[11] The Times, No. 45,912, Royal Edition, London, Thursday, August 27, 1931, p. 13: "Court Circular - BUCKINGHAM PALACE, Aug. 26 The King held a Council this morning at 11.30 o'clock. <...> The Right Hon. James Ramsay MacDonald, M.P., was sworn First Lord of the Treasury."; The London Gazette, No. 33748, Friday, 28 August, 1931, p. 5615.
[12] The Times, No. 47,085, Royal Edition, London Saturday June 8 1935, p. 17: "Court Circular - BUCKINGHAM PALACE, June 7. <...> The Right Hon. J. Ramsay MacDonald, M.P., had an audience of The King this afternoon and tendered his resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, which His Majesty was graciously pleased to accept."
[13] "Ramsay MacDonald", by David Marquand (London: Jonathan Cape, 1977).
Image: photograph, 1 Dec 1919.
Last updated on: 26 Jun 2009 04:21:32