mother married Robert Heath, the family moved to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
At the age of twelve Arthur found work at the Robert Stephenson
locomotive works. Despite a ten hour day, Arthur attended evening
classes in an effort to improve his education.
had been brought up as a staunch Congregationalist, but in 1879
he was converted by the preacher, Rodney Smith, to Methodism.
He became a lay preacher and an active member of the Temperance
his apprenticeship at seventeen, Arthur Henderson moved to Southampton
for a year and then returned to work as a iron moulder in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Henderson became an active trade unionist and formed a reading
a debating society at the Stephenson locomotive works. In 1884
Henderson lost his job and was out of work for fourteen months.
Henderson used this time to continue his education and to work
as a lay preacher.
Henderson was elected as a paid organiser of the Iron Founders
Union. Henderson was one of the worker representatives on the
North East Conciliation Board. A strong believer in arbitration
and industrial co-operation, Henderson opposed the formation
of the General Federation of Trade Unions as he believed it
would increase the frequency of industrial disputes.
February 1900, representatives of all the socialist groups in
Britain (the Independent Labour Party, the Social Democratic
Federation and the Fabian Society, met with trade union leaders
at the Memorial Hall in Farringdon Street, London. Arthur Henderson
was one of the 129 delegates who decided to pass Hardie's motion
to establish "a distinct Labour group in Parliament, who
shall have their own whips, and agree upon their policy, which
must embrace a readiness to cooperate with any party which for
the time being may be engaged in promoting legislation in the
direct interests of labour." To make this possible the
Conference established a Labour Representation Committee (LRC).
Henderson was elected treasurer of the LRC. He was opposed by
members of the Independent Labour Party who objected to the
fact that Henderson was a liberal rather than a socialist. In
a by-election later that year, Henderson was elected as MP for
Barnard Castle. Three years later Henderson chaired the conference
at which the LRC was transformed into the Labour Party. The
party's first Chairman was James Keir Hardie, but in 1908 he
was replaced by Henderson.
became leader of the Labour Party in 1911. However, he resigned
the post in 1914 because of his opposition to the First World
War. Henderson now became the new leader and in May 1915, became
the first member of the Labour Party to hold a Cabinet post
when Herbert Asquith invited him to join his coalition government.
Henderson was President of the Board of Education (May, 1915
- October, 1916) and Paymaster General (October, 1916 - August,
1917). Henderson resigned as a result of David Lloyd-George,
and the war Cabinet voting against his proposal for an International
Conference on the war in Stockholm.
disagreed with those politicians who believed Germany should
be harshly treated after the First World War, and as a result
of the nationalist fervour of the 1918 General Election, he
lost his seat. He returned to the House of Commons the following
year as MP for Widnes. Henderson became chief whip of the party
but was defeated at the 1922 General Election.
for East Newcastle at a by-election at two months later, he
was defeated once again in the 1923 General Election. He returned
at a by-election at Burnley in February 1924 and joined the
government headed by Ramsay MacDonald as Home Secretary.
Labour's defeat in the 1924 General Election, Philip Snowden
and other leading figures in the movement tried to persuade
Henderson to stand against MacDonald as leader of the party.
Henderson refused and once again became chief whip of the party
where he tried to unite the party behind MacDonald's leadership.
Henderson was also the main person responsible for Labour and
the Nation, a pamphlet that attempted to clarify the political
aims of the Labour Party.
1929 General Election victory, Ramsay MacDonald appointed Henderson
as his Foreign Secretary. In this post Henderson attempted to
reduce political tensions in Europe. Diplomatic relations were
re-established with the Soviet Union and Henderson gave his
full support to the League of Nations by arguing for international
arbitration, de-militarization and collective security.
Philip Snowden, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, suggested that
the Labour government should introduce new measures to balance
the budget. This included a reduction in unemployment pay. Several
ministers, including Henderson, George Lansbury and Joseph Clynes,
refused to accept the cuts in benefits and resigned from office.
was angry that his Cabinet had voted against him and decided
to resign. When he saw George V that night, he was persuaded
to head a new coalition government that would include Conservative
and Liberal leaders as well as Labour ministers. Most of the
Labour Cabinet totally rejected the idea and only three, Jimmy
Thomas, Philip Snowden and John Sankey agreed to join the new
MacDonald called an election. The 1931 General Election was
a disaster for the Labour Party with only 46 members winning
their seats. Henderson lost his seat at Burnley but returned
to the House of Commons at a by-election at Clay Cross in September
next few years Henderson worked tirelessly for world peace.
Between 1932 and 1935 he chaired the Geneva Disarmament Conference
and in 1934 his work was recognised when he was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize. Arthur Henderson died in London on 20th October,