Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice or the Marquess of Lansdowne (1845-1927) was an Anglo-Irish peer, British politician and former governor-general of Canada.
Born in London, Petty-Fitzmaurice became the Marquess of Lansdowne at age 21, following the death of his father. He became a career politician, holding several significant cabinet positions, before accepting vice-regal appointments in Canada and India.
Returning to England in 1894, Lansdowne served as Secretary of State for War (1895-1900) and Foreign Minister (1900-05). He was a member of prime minister Herbert Asquith’s war council until 1916.
In November 1916, Lansdowne drafted a letter to the cabinet calling for peace negotiations with Germany and a return to the status quo before the war. “We are not going to lose this war”, Lansdowne wrote, “but its prolongation will spell ruin for the civilised world, and an infinite addition to the load of human suffering which already weighs upon it. Security will be invaluable… but what will be the value of the blessings of peace to nations so exhausted that they can scarcely stretch out a hand with which to grasp them?”
The letter was rejected by the cabinet and Lansdowne tried getting it published in the press, without luck. It was eventually published in the Daily Telegraph in late 1917 and unleashed a flood of reaction, almost all of it dismissive or hostile to Lansdowne. Some went as far as accusing Lansdowne of being a German spy or at least having German sympathies.