HC Deb 16 December 1912 vol 45 cc1137-9

Before the House proceeds to the Orders for the Day I would ask leave to give brief expression to the sincere grief shared by the whole nation at the death of the American Ambassador, Mr. Whitelaw Reid. The American Ambassador in this country holds a position of his own, which is independent of his status and his functions as the diplomatic representative of an external Power. We regard him as a kinsman, who is also an honoured and a welcomed guest, having sprung from our own race, speaking our own language, sharing with us, by birth and by inheritance, not a few of our most cherished traditions, and participating, when he comes here, by what I may describe as a natural right, in our domestic interests and celebrations. The office has been held and adorned by a long succession of distinguished men, and I am not using the language of exaggeration when I say that none of them has more fully entered into its spirit and more maintained its special authority than Mr. Whitelaw Reid. He brought to the discharge of its manifold and exacting duties the gathered experience of a veteran in public affairs, the endowment of a man of the highest culture, social gifts of the most genial and generous kind, a keen sympathy with all the many sides of our British life, a mind always open and receptive, and the warmest of hearts. We propose to suggest to the American Government that one of His Majesty's battleships or battle cruisers should convey the remains of the late Ambassador to his native land. I am certain that I interpret the sentiments of the whole House when I venture in their name to offer to his family, and to the President and the people of the United States, our deep and heartfelt sympathy at the loss of one who was a great American, but who none the less had his home amongst us, and in a true and real sense was felt by all of us to be one of ourselves.

4.0 P.M.


Unfortunately my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is unavoidably absent from his place in the House. Although I think the Prime Minister was perfectly justified in saying that on this occasion he spoke not merely for the majority, but for the whole House, without any exception whatever, it is only right and in accordance with our usages that one word of public agreement should be said from this side of the House; and perhaps, in the absence of my right hon. Friend, as the Senior Privy Councillor on this side, the duty naturally devolves upon mo. I have nothing to add in substance to the noble tribute which the right hon. Gentleman has paid to Mr. Whitelaw Reid. Of course, I have not the knowledge which the Prime Minister possesses of the assistance which I doubt not in all the years of his office Mr. Whitelaw Reid has given to his own and to our Government in the cause of increasing, if that may be possible, the admirable understanding which now exists and which for many years has existed between the two great branches of the English-speaking race. The right hon. Gentleman did not dwell upon that branch of the subject so much as upon that branch appropriate to the Ambassador of the United States, and appropriate to the Ambassador of no other country, however intimate and friendly our relations with that country may be. The Prime Minister has dwelt with admirable taste and eloquence upon the position which has for so long been occupied by the distinguished citizens of the United States who have come over to this country and worthily represented that great community in the land from which both have sprung. We in Great Britain have always been anxious to extend and have always extended to those representatives, not merely the consideration due to those who represent a great and friendly Power, but something much more, something much deeper, and something much more intimate. We have welcomed them, as the right hon. Gentleman has truly said, to the very arcana of our social life. The functions which fall upon the representative of the United States, being thus in their nature peculiar, have been most admirably fulfilled by the departed statesman. I had the honour, as doubtless many whom I am addressing had the honour, of his friendship. I shall never forget the kindness which he always extended to me, as he did to others with whom he was brought from time to time into close and intimate converse. The more you knew him, the more any man knew Mr. Whitelaw Reid, the more competent he was to appreciate, not only the ardent and enlightened patriotism which distinguished him, but those broad bonds of generous sympathy which made us feel, when he was talking to us, that he was not less sympathetic to England because he never allowed one to forget that he was the representative of another, though kindred nation. If I may express opinions which I know are universal on this side of the House, let me say that I think the Government have been well advised in the course which the Prime Minister announced. I am glad the Government have seen their way to extend this honour from the British race to one of the most distinguished citizens of the United States. I think what they have alone will not only, as I hope, be received as it is intended by our friends on the other side of the Atlantic, but I am well assured that this policy will be approved by every single citizen of the British Empire.