Autograph letter signed.31 July 1911 Stock Code: 137120
NotesA persuasively argued autograph letter signed from Christabel to the MP Noel Buxton (1869-1948), entreating his public support for the passing of a Conciliation Bill and thanking him for "all you do for the cause".
British Liberal politician Noel Buxton, 1st Baron Noel-Buxton, was at the time of Christabel's letter serving as MP for the Norfolk North constituency. As well as an active women's suffrage campaigner, he particularly supported causes including antislavery, child welfare, and miners' welfare. He was a member of the People's Suffrage Federation which sought to align progressives of all parties to end property and sex qualifications for the vote. In 1908 he proposed the debate "that in the opinion of this House, female suffrage would be beneficial to this country", a motion which lost by 14 votes to 6. Later, as Chairman of the Balkan War Relief Committee, Buxton worked with British suffragist and aid-worker Mabel St Clair Stobart to convince the government to send an all-female medical unit to the Balkan Wars. Buxton's death prompted the suffrage supporter Margaret Hirst to write in a letter that the movement was "heartbroken" at his loss (Vellacott, p. 32).
In her letter to Buxton Christabel begins by mentioning the speeches already made in support of the Conciliation Bill by his colleagues, Arthur Ponsonby (1871-1946; MP for Stirling Burghs), Alfred Mond, 1st Baron Melchett (1868-1930; MP for Swansea), and Walter Roch (1880-1965; MP for Pembrokeshire), and reminding Buxton of Sir Ellis Ellis-Griffith's (1860-1926; MP for Anglesey at the time) promise to speak at an upcoming Albert Hall event on 16 November. Hoping to persuade Buxton to speak at a subsequent meeting, Christabel promises that "your words would be very fully reported in 'Votes for Women' and so would reach a really large public and of course there would be such reports as the newspapers now give to speeches". Her final paragraph reveals her anxieties about the "serious danger" posed by the rival suffrage bill proposed by Prime Minister H. H. Asquith. Requesting Buxton's advice on how best to properly secure promises to ballot for their Conciliation Bill, she admits that she and her colleagues are "more than anxious to take the preliminary steps to guard against it".
Christabel's letter refers to the second of three Conciliation Bills put before the House of Commons, proposed in 1910, 1911, and 1912 respectively. The Bills aimed to enfranchise property-owning women and some married women, which would have added an estimated one million women to the register. Despite many suffragists' dissatisfaction with these limitations, it was hoped that, given these restrictions, the Bills stood a realistic chance of becoming law. Both the NUWSS and the WSPU campaigned vigourously to drum up support; one tactic was to approach sympathetic MPs individually to canvas support, of which Christabel's letter is one such example.
The Bill was rejected each year. Christabel's letter refers to the rival Manhood Suffrage Bill proposed by Asquith in 1911, one of the reasons for the Conciliation Bill's failure that year. Asquith's bill would enfranchise the four million men currently excluded from voting; regarding the issue of the women's vote, he suggested that the movement could subsequently lobby for an amendment to include women. This was felt to be deeply unsatisfactory and the Pankhursts in particular "had invested a good deal of capital in the Conciliation Bill and had prepared themselves for the triumph which a women-only bill would entail. A general reform bill would have deprived them of some, at least, of the glory, for even though it seemed likely to give the vote to far more women, this was incidental to its main purpose" (Foot, p. 211).
The defeat of each Bill divided the suffrage movement in their response. Millicent Garrett Fawcett and the NUWSS chose to remain focused on legislative change, forming an electoral alliance with the Labour Party. Embracing the more militant route, the Pankhursts and the WSPU expressed their frustrations with new window-smashing campaigns, targeting the offices of several newspapers and the residences of leading Liberal politicians, including Asquith, Lloyd George, and Churchill.
We can trace eight instances of autograph letters by Christabel having appeared at auction since 1975; all but one (Sotheby's 1981, also numbering 6 pages) are shorter in content than the present.
2 bifolia (leaf size 208 x 128 mm) of WSPU Office headed note paper, hand written across 6 pages in black ink.
Creased from folding, else in excellent condition.
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