Salisbury, Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3d marquess of (sôlzˈbərē) [key], 1830–1903, British statesman. He entered Parliament in 1853 as a Conservative and devoted himself for 50 years to a program of cautious imperialism and resourceful resistance to sweeping parliamentary and franchise reforms. He became (1866) secretary for India in Lord Derby's government but resigned (1867) in protest against the Reform Bill (see Reform Acts) sponsored and passed by Benjamin Disraeli. Salisbury (who succeeded to his father's title in 1868) returned to the India Office in 1874 and in 1878 became Disraeli's foreign secretary. His "Salisbury Circular" outlined British policy concerning the Eastern Question and led to the Congress of Berlin (1878), which he attended with Disraeli. The Conservatives lost office in 1880, and on Disraeli's death (1881) Salisbury became leader of the opposition to the administration of William Gladstone. In 1885 he entered upon the first of his three ministries. His government fell early in 1886, but Salisbury returned to power within the year, following the defeat of Gladstone's bill for Irish Home Rule. Salisbury's second government lasted six years (until 1892); his third, seven years (1895–1902). In each of his ministries he acted as his own foreign minister. Salisbury avoided alignments in European affairs, maintaining the policy of what was later called "splendid isolation." Colonial affairs, however, brought difficulties with some of the European powers. An Anglo-German agreement (1890) resolved conflicting claims in East Africa; Great Britain received Zanzibar and Uganda in exchange for Helgoland. A treaty with Portugal (1891) gave Britain further rights in E Africa. The Fashoda Incident (1898) brought Britain and France to the verge of war but ended in a diplomatic victory for Britain. Difficulties with the Boers, however, resulted in the South African War (1899–1902). Salisbury conciliated the United States at the time of the Venezuela Boundary Dispute, in the Spanish-American War, and in the Panama negotiations. He attempted with some success to maintain the Open Door in China. Although preoccupied largely with foreign affairs, Salisbury did carry several land purchase acts for Ireland. His governments were also responsible for such reforms as the reorganization of local government (1888), free public education (1891), and workmen's compensation (1897). He relinquished the foreign office in 1900 and resigned as prime minister after the conclusion of the South African War in 1902. Salisbury designated his nephew, Arthur Balfour, as his successor.
See biographies by his daughter, G. Cecil (4 vol., 1921–32, repr. 1971), A. L. Kennedy (1953), R. G. Taylor (1975), and P. Marsh (1978).
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