Acland, Sir Arthur Herbert Dyke, thirteenth baronet, of Columb John, Devon 1847-1926, politician and educational reformer, born at Holnicote, near Porlock, 13 October 1847, was the third son of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, eleventh baronet [qv.], by his first wife, Mary, daughter of Sir Charles Mordaunt, eighth baronet, of Massingham, Norfolk. Sir Henry Wentworth Acland [qv.] was his uncle. He entered Rugby School in 1861, and matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, in 1866. He obtained a second class in classical moderations (1868) and also in the final school of law and modern history (1870), graduating Bachelor of Arts in 1870 and M.A. in 1873. At Oxford Acland showed a keen interest in economic and social questions, and gathered round him a group of young Fellows and undergraduates who were known as the Inner Circle.
In 1871 Acland was appointed lecturer, and in 1872 tutor, at Keble College, then newly founded. He was ordained deacon in 1872, but in 1879 resigned his orders under the Clerical Disabilities Act of 1870. In 1875 he gave up his tutorship at Keble, and from 1875 to 1877 held the post of principal of the newly founded Oxford Military School at Cowley. He was also the first treasurer of Somerville College, Oxford. In 1880 he was appointed steward of Christ Church, and from 1884 to 1885 he was a senior student at Christ Church. In 1884 he was appointed senior bursar of Balliol College, and was made an honorary fellow in 1888.
In December 1885 Acland was returned to parliament in the liberal interest as member for the newly formed Rotheram division of the West Riding of Yorkshire. He at once became an authority on educational questions, and between 1885 and 1889 took a considerable part in promoting the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, a private members' bill, which was passed in 1889 and anticipated the Education Act of 1902 in making the Welsh county councils an educational authority. He afterwards contributed a paper on the working of the Act to Studies in Secondary Education (1902), edited by himself and (Sir) Hubert Llewellyn Smith. His experience as a member of the West Riding county council had impressed him with the advisability of entrusting the control of educational matters to the county councils, and he took a further step in this direction by persuading the House of Commons in 1890 to make a grant to the county councils for technical education.
In August 1892, when Mr. Gladstone formed his fourth ministry, Acland entered the Cabinet as vice-president of the Committee of Council of Education. To Gladstone the admission of Acland, the son of the oldest of all the surviving friends of his youth, Sir Thomas Acland, gave personal gratification [Morley, Life of Gladstone, iii, 494-5]. For the first time the vice-president had a seat in the Cabinet, and in consequence Acland had entire control of the department, although Lord Kimberley and Lord Rosebery represented it in the House of Lords. Acland's direction to inspectors to concern themselves with the structural improvement of school buildings was criticized as an attempt to discourage, by putting financial pressure on them, voluntary schools and religious education. He succeeded, however, in 1893 in passing an Act by which the age for compulsory attendance at school was raised from ten to eleven. He also, towards the close of his tenure of office, reorganized the science and art department at South Kensington and abolished payments by examination results, subjecting all subjects taught to inspection, and making a portion of the government grant dependent on the reports of qualified certificated teachers acting as inspectors.
With regard to his general position in the Cabinet, Acland had the reputation among his colleagues of keeping in touch with the labour people and their mind [Morley, Recollections, i, 324], and Lord Morley states that, on Gladstone's retirement in 1894, Earl Spencer, Mr. Asquith, Acland, and himself were the leading junto inside the Cabinet who preferred Lord Rosebery to Sir William Harcourt as Gladstone's successor [ibid. ii, 15].
When the liberal ministry went out of office in 1895 Acland retired from active politics for reasons of health. He resigned his seat in 1899, but kept in close touch with his party and with the Board of Education. In 1902 he returned to the councils of the party for the purpose of opposing the conservative Education Bill which proposed to make state grants to voluntary schools while leaving the religious teaching under the control of the managers. In December 1905, when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was forming his ministry, Acland was largely instrumental in overcoming Sir Edward Grey's reluctance to take office in a ministry from which Lord Rosebery was excluded, urging on him that he ought not to imperil the whole liberal cause and with it the cause of free trade, by reviving old differences on the eve of a general election [Spender, Life of Campbell-Bannerman, ii, 196-7].
Acland was president of the general committee of the National Liberal Federation in 1906. He declined the offer of a peerage in 1908. For some years he was president of the consultative committee of the Board of Education, and in 1912 he was chairman of the Liberal Land Committee. He received the honorary degree of LL.D. from the universities of Leeds (1904) and Bristol (1912). Acland published in 1882, in conjunction with Professor Cyril Ransome, A Handbook of the Political History of England, which had considerable popularity as a book of reference and reached a new edition in 1913. Another successful manual, published by Acland and Benjamin Jones, was Working Men Co-operators (1884), an account of the artisans' Co-operative movement in Great Britain. Acland also published The Patriotic Poetry of William Wordsworth. A Selection (1915), and at an earlier date printed for private circulation a life of his father, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland.
Acland succeeded his brother, Sir Charles Thomas Dyke Acland, as thirteenth baronet in 1919. He died in London 9 October 1926 and was buried at Golders Green. He married in 1873 Alice Sophia, daughter of the Rev. Francis Macaulay Cunningham, rector of Witney, Oxfordshire, and afterwards rector of Brightwell, Berkshire. They had two sons and one daughter. Acland was succeeded as fourteenth baronet by his elder and only surviving son, Francis Dyke (born 1874).
The Times, 11 October 1926
Lord Morley, Recollections, 2 vols., 1917
J. A. Spender, Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, 2 vols., 1923
Rugby School Register, vol. ii, 1850-1874, 1881
R. L. Archer, Secondary Education in the Nineteenth Century, 1921.
Contributor: E. I. Carlyle.