Birthday: October 12, 1866
Died At Age: 71
Sun Sign: Libra
Born in: Lossiemouth
Famous as: Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Spouse/Ex-: Margaret MacDonald
children: Malcolm MacDonald
Died on: November 9, 1937
place of death: Atlantic Ocean
education: Birkbeck, University of London, London School of Economics and Political Science
Ramsay MacDonald was a British politician who went on to become the first Labour Party Prime Minister of Great Britain. Born in Scotland, he was an illegitimate son of a maidservant and after completing his elementary education, worked as a teacher before moving to London. After serving at menial office jobs for a while, he joined the newly founded Independent Labour Party and became sufficiently well-known over the years. Subsequently, he became the first secretary of the Labour Representation Committee and was later elected the chairman of the Labour Party. But, in 1914, he was forced to resign as party leader because of his disapproval to Britain's participation in the Great War. After several years, he returned to lead the Labour party and after the Labourites, with the support of the Liberals, defeated the Conservative party in 1924, he took office for the first time as the Prime Minister of United Kingdom. Although his government fell out the same year due to some rebuffs, MacDonald was successful in demonstrating that his party could govern responsibly and effectively. In 1929, MacDonald returned to power but the government soon faced a worldwide economic recession, causing his cabinet to split. Subsequently, MacDonald formed a coalition national government with Conservative and Liberal support, a decision which was considered a betrayal by many of his Labour party members. Thereafter, he remained as Prime Minister of England until 1935, and died two years later, aboard a ship to America
Childhood & Early Life
James Ramsay MacDonald was born on October 12, 1866 in the village of Lossiemouth in Scotland. He was the illegitimate son of John MacDonald, a plowman and a Highlander from the Black Isle of Ross, and Anne Ramsay, a housemaid.
He received his elementary education from the Free Kirk School in Lossiemouth and the Drainie Parish School. Subsequently, he worked as a pupil-teacher and later moved to Bristol to work as a clergyman’s assistant.
While working, he joined the Bristol branch of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), a Marxist-oriented society. His went to London in 1886.
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After being employed on a clerical job in London for several years, he joined the Independent Labour party (ILP), in 1894. The following year, he ran unsuccessfully as an ILP candidate for a seat in Parliament.
In 1896, he got married and subsequently became a journalist, writing for Labour and Socialist journals. Over the next few years, MacDonald rose in his career and gained reputation is the society.
In 1900, upon the formation of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), which later transformed into the Labour Party, MacDonald was unanimously chosen its first secretary.
In 1911, he became Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
During World War I, MacDonald’s opposition to the British entry in the Great War resulted in decline of his popularity. He was heavily criticized by the press and as a result, MacDonald resigned from his post.
In 1922, MacDonald returned to the parliament and became the Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and therefore Leader of the Opposition.
In January 1924, George V asked him to form a government which resulted in the first-ever Labour government in Great Britain and MacDonald became the Prime Minister of United Kingdom. But, his administration lasted less than a year and faced heavy defeat in the elections of November 1924.
During the next five years, the Labour Party regained the lost ground due to the failure of the Baldwin government to tackle unemployment. In the 1929 elections, his party joined hands with several Liberals against the Conservative Party and as a result, the Labourites won the election and MacDonald returned to power.
During his second government, the world economic situation steadily worsened, giving rise to a mounting unemployment. Disagreement on measures to resolve this problem resulted in the division of his cabinet which brought about MacDonald's resignation in August 1931.
Subsequently, the support of other party leaders persuaded him to include the opposition members in his government and thus, MacDonald was able to retain his position by forming a cross-party national government.
This act of coalition government soon lost him the support of many of his Labour party members who dubbed MacDonald a traitor for his action. Despite this, the new government was able to stabilize the financial situation and MacDonald continued as prime minister, with very little Labour support.
Over the years, deteriorating health greatly reduced his efficiency and in March 1935, he resigned from his post of Prime Minister and became the Lord President of the Council, a post he retained until 1937.
Although his first Labour government in 1924 lasted less than a year, this short term established the fact that the Labour Party was amply skilled and efficient enough to run the government. This led to the return of MacDonald’s Labour government in 1929, and for the third time in 1931 as a coalition national government. A powerful orator, he also earned much public admiration for his pacifism.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1896, he married Margaret Ethel Gladstone, a feminist and social reformer. The marriage was a quite happy one, and the couple were blessed with six children. In 1911, his wife died from blood poisoning which left MacDonald devastated and he never married again.
In 1936, his condition worsened and a sea voyage was recommended to restore his health. Unfortunately, he died on November 9, 1937, aboard the liner, Reina del Pacifico, at sea, at the age of 71. After the funeral, his ashes were buried alongside his wife at Spynie in his native Morayshire.