HL Deb 06 May 1886 vol 305 cc355-8

Your Lordships will bear with me while I say a few words respecting the loss which we have sustained during the Recess. Lord Redesdale has passed away in a ripe and honoured old age. He sat in this House 56 years; I believe that he, with another of the most respected Members of this Assembly, Lord Chichester, was the last who sat here during the Reign of George IV. Lord Redesdale was one of my oldest personal friends, and I am one of now a small number who saw him unanimously chosen as the Chairman of your Lordships' Committees, an Office the duties of which he has discharged for 35 years with distinction, judgment, and decision, and in a manner most advantageous to your Lordships' House and to the public. Lord Redesdale was a keen politician; he at one time held a confidential Office in this Assembly, to which no strictly official title belongs, but which implies the full confidence of the Leaders of a Party in the Peer who holds it. He resigned this post in consequence of the repeal of the Corn Laws under the Government of Sir Robert Peel. It is, perhaps, odd for me to say so, but I could not help feeling strong admiration for the genuine Conservatism with which Lord Redesdale regarded all questions, whether great or small. There were few things which he did not consider to be better as they were rather than as they might be after alteration. Yet I do not remember any instance in which these strong political prepossessions influenced at all his conduct in the Chair. He was a strong, just, shrewd, and kind man. He was afraid of no one in or out of the House. He could say "No," and even a disagreeable "No," when the need arose; yet such was the simplicity and straightforwardness of his character, and the absence of all personal vanity from his disposition, that he never gave offence. The void created by his death will be difficult to fill, and it will be long before we cease to miss his respected and familiar presence in this place.


Your Lordships will have listened with feelings of admiration and of regret to the touching language and judicious criticism that have fallen from the lips of the noble Earl who leads this House. He has in no way exaggerated the high qualities that distinguished Lord Redesdale, or the void which we shall have to fill when his place must be occupied again. The House will seem strange without that familiar figure, for he has played not only a long but a great part in the deliberations of this House. He governed the disposal of our Private Business at a time when Private Business was very different from what it is now, at a time when on the judgment and honesty and resolution of the noble Lord who occupied that Chair it depended whether our proceedings should or should not be made an instrument for the perpetration of much that was oppressive and even fraudulent. By his great courage and his discernment he has given a great power to the deliberations of this House in connection with matters of Private Business, a power which I trust we shall not speedily lose. His power was so great that his dictatorship had become proverbial, and yet that dictatorship was exercised, not by reason of any transcendent talents, but simply on account of the sterling and pellucid honesty of the man who exercised those powers. Nothing but that honesty could have procured for him, with so imperious an action, the respect which he uniformly secured. The noble Earl has alluded to the strength of his political opinions. There is no doubt that he was a very strong partizan; but I never knew him in all the strength of his partizanship stoop to wrest an argument or ignore a fact, and he possessed this quality, precious above all others and diminishing in these days—he had the courage of his individual opinions. He was not afraid to act upon what he individually believed to be right, and he was not deterred by any prevalence of public feeling against him from expressing his opinions courageously to the whole world. My Lords, he enjoyed the universal deference and respect of all Peers, not only of those who shared his own political opinions, but on both sides of the House. We may easily put into that Chair a man who shall be his equal in ability; I doubt whether we shall ever put into it one who will exceed him in the sterling honesty and clearness of his decisions, or in the universal respect and unanimity which those decisions commanded.


said, though he could not claim the gift of eloquence manifested by the two preceding speakers, yet, as one who had, perhaps, been more intimately associated with the late Lord Redesdale in the management of the Business of the House than any other Peer, he begged to be allowed to say how deeply he deplored his death, and to add his humble testimony to the great fairness, straightforwardness, and judiciousness which his late Friend brought to bear upon his work. In his decisions he did justice to everyone. Those among their Lordships who had served upon Committees with the noble Earl had never failed to be struck with the clearness and readiness of his decisions upon difficult and complicated points. Having been brought into constant contact with the noble Earl he was in a position to know how great a loss the House had sustained. They must derive what consolation they could from the fact that among the noble Lords who bad taken part in the Private Business of the House many could be found actuated by as high a regard for justice as that which distinguished their noble Friend.


Your Lordships will readily understand why I do not propose to take any action in the matter this evening. I will merely give Notice that I intend to place on the Paper the terms of a Motion for Monday next.