HL Deb 14 April 1891 vol 352 cc461-9

My Lords, I feel confident that I am not assuming too much in supposing that your Lordships would not be willing to meet on this occasion without referring to the great loss which has fallen upon this House during the Recess. I regret very much, indeed, that my noble Friend Lord Salisbury is absent on this occasion, because I am quite sure he would have given a more adequate picture of the character and qualities of the man with whom he was brought so constantly into relation, whether in the management of the business of this House or in the conflicts among the different parties who are contending. Of this, however, I am quite sure, that I do not misrepresent my noble Friend, nor shall I misrepresent my friends who sit behind me, when I say that whatever controversies may have been waged between Lord Salisbury and Lord Granville were marked by cordial relations, and were carried on without anything approaching to a taint of personal rancour or personal animosity. I trust, my Lords, in the conduct of politics in this House it may always be so, and that it may not be assumed that because there is a difference of opinion there is rancour on one part or the other. I trust that those cordial relations which have distinguished the parties in this country who differ on political questions may continue, and show that the heat of political controversies does not burn out personal friendships or generosity, and that men may continue to appreciate one another, believing that high motives are quite compatible with adverse opinions. But, my Lords, I know that you will not imagine, when I speak of Lord Granville as having acted on all occasions with temper, patience, and generosity to his opponents, that I intend to lead you to suppose that he ever in any way sacrificed his convictions for the sake of conciliating anyone, or that he threw over for that object those opinions which I know he held firmly and strongly. In fact, by his own admission, he was a strong politician, a keen Party-man, and it was as such that he conducted the business of this House upon all occasions when it was necessary, and only when it was necessary. He had great adversaries to meet during his long career, and those adversaries he met with a firm and fearless mien; and though he may not perhaps have risen to the heights of oratory that some attained, yet it must, I think, be admitted by all that he met his antagonists in many a stirring debate without flinching from the occasion. My Lords, Lord Granville was one who was skilful in fence; he was a great master of repartee; but I think there again we shall all admit that he never used that power to wound or to hurt any one, or with any malicious intention. The weapon which he used was generally so sharp and polished that the wound it made healed almost immediately; what he gave he was ready to endure, and I can say confidently that none of your Lordships have seen Lord Granville in any encounter show signs of temper. My Lords, he was a true friend to the Assembly in which he sat. It is a remarkable thing, I think, that in the many controversies which have arisen with regard to this Assembly, Lord Granville never threw any slur upon its reputation in the House or out of it, and that on all occasions he watched with jealous watchfulness over its interests, its dignity, and its honour. Not by one word or action of his own did he ever throw any stain upon this Assembly. Can it be wondered at, then, my Lords, that this House reciprocated the feelings which Lord Granville always himself entertained? Thus, while he did honour to this Assembly, he was honoured by it universally. It was not one Party more than another in this House that recognised him; he was recognised by all as a fit spokesman and representative of this House. Courteous as he was to his opponents, winning as he was to his friends, it was when no Party feeling intervened, that those who have had the opportunity of watching Lord Granville's career will remember that upon many great occasions how in graceful and appropriate words he expressed the sentiments of this House with a taste, with a tact, and with a judgment which left nothing to be desired; and that upon those occasions the high breeding and the manly simplicity with which he expressed himself found an echo in the hearts of every one of your Lordships. May I be permitted for one moment to say a word personal to myself? I felt a deep regard for Lord Granville, who welcomed me very heartily to this House, and on many occasions since I have sat in it showed a kindness in his intercourse with me, which made me esteem and honour him. I, too, like his many friends, miss the touch of that vanished hand and the sound of that voice which is still. But, my Lords, I am speaking not for myself; I am speaking for your Lordships. I am quite sure that the universal regret which you feel ought not to be, and is not, separated from the deep sympathy which you must feel for those who miss that genial presence from private and domestic life. My Lords, his distinguished career is at an end, but it has not come to an end immaturely or without the honour which his country is ready to pay to one who has served it faithfully. Lord Granville for 40 years of public life lived in the sight of a censorious and critical world, with many eyes upon him, at home and abroad; and I only wish that those of us who survive him may, like him, pass from the scene with the consciousness that we have not deserved and have never incurred any personal hostility. My Lords, I leave to those who were associated with him more intimately in politics to speak for him as their political friend. In the absence of my noble Friend, and as the Leader of the House for a temporary purpose, I speak of him with a desire to show, as I feel, that Lord Granville was worthy of the honour and approbation which this House is now showing towards him.


My Lords, the noble Viscount has expressed so fully and in such feeling terms what I am sure is the unanimous sense of the House that there is little to add to what he has said; but as one of the oldest Colleagues of Lord Granville, and as having acted for him for some time during his occasional absences from this House, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say a few words. To those who, like my noble Friend Lord Spencer and myself, have long been associated with him in public life, the loss we have sustained by the death of Lord Granville is almost irreparable. Long and sadly shall we miss his wise and sagacious counsel and guidance, the genial friendship which he extended to us at all times, and his constant support in all circumstances. My Lords, as the noble Viscount has said, Lord Granville was not perhaps endowed with the gift of powerful and commanding eloquence, but upon serious occasions the House knows well that his speeches were wanting neither in weight nor in dignity. At the same time, he possessed a singular gift of lightness of touch, of felicity of expression, and happy anecdote, with which he enlivened even the driest Debate in this House. Our lamented friend was never deficient, never failing in his popular sympathies, and, as the noble Viscount has truly said, he never shrank from the open expression of his opinions and from their firm and consistent maintenance whether in this House or outside of it; but, as the Leader of this House or as the Leader of the Opposition, he possessed the remarkable gift of expressing his views without compromise, and yet never with any offence to those who were opposed to him. He had many opponents in this House, but even among those opponents he had many friends. Your Lordships all remember how he conducted the business of the House when leader of the Government for many years—with what tact, with what discretion, with what conciliatory temper and patience he conducted the business under circumstances often of very great difficulty in the face of adverse majorities; but that tact and that temper never failed. He had that singular way of tempering his opposition with moderation and that kindly manner which disarmed any feeling of hostility to himself personally. The noble Viscount has most truly said that it was one striking characteristic of him that he always had at heart—the honour and the dignity of this House, and by that he gained its confidence and its esteem. I will say no more, except this: that to his own family and to the many friends who mourn for him, a career so honourable to himself and so useful to his country must yield them some consolation, for they must feel that it has been crowned with what I believe to be the universal regret of all, both in this House and throughout the country.


My Lords, after what has been said, and said with so much taste and with such genuine feeling, first by the noble Viscount and next by my noble Friend, whose connection with the distinguished Member of this House whom we have lost has been certainly longer and perhaps closer than mine, I have only a few words to add, and I add them, not because they are needed as a tribute to Lord Granville's memory, but in order that what I know we all feel in common may be expressed alike by every quarter of this House. The loss which the country has sustained by the death of Lord Granville is heavy; but the loss which this House has sustained is heavier still, for probably no statesman and no political leader has ever lived who was more closely and entirely identified with the Assembly in which he sat. I agree with what has been said by the noble Viscount and by the noble Lord behind me, that to keep this House efficient, to keep it, as far as possible, in harmony with the other House of Parliament, and to preserve for it the respect and esteem of the public, was an object in which he felt at all times the deepest personal concern. That is a feeling in which your Lordships can all sympathise in whatever quarter of the House you may sit, and even though in particular cases your Lordships might not agree with the methods by which that result was to be attained. My Lords, there were other traits in Lord Granville's public character which it is easier for most men to admire than to imitate. How skilful and dexterous an antagonist he was in Debate, how firmly and effectively he maintained the opinions which he held, whether popular or unpopular, we do not need to be reminded; but I can remember no occasion, and I have heard of none in the many years during which he took part in our Debates, when either Lord Granville himself appeared to be actuated by any personal animosity or bitterness, or when he spoke in such a manner as to excite that feeling in the minds of his opponents. It was also, I think, a part of his nature and of his training, that no one actively engaged in public life ever indulged less or, I should rather say, more entirely abstained from indulging in any exaggerated or sensational language. He held strong and definite opinions; he held them more strongly than many of those outside, who judged only by the invariable gentleness of his language, were apt to suppose, but they were the opinions of a statesman and a man of the world, of one whose immense experience had taught him tolerance, whose thorough knowledge of individual character was combined with a knowledge of the wants and ideas of society as a whole, and who, by his mental constitution, was free alike from optimistic enthusiasm in his earlier career, and later from that which is often the reaction from exaggerated enthu- siasm, the pessimism and despondency which are too often the characteristic and the misfortune of old age. I think I should be justified if I said that by his peculiar position representing and inheriting as he did the traditions of an older state of society, yet accepting the ideas of one more modern, he was eminently suited to deal with men and affairs in an age of transition such as that in which we live. When it can be said of an English political leader, that he was always loyal to his supporters, always fair and courteous to his opponents, a faithful Colleague, a laborious public servant, warmly and frankly attached to his Party, but not so as to place its interests before those of his country; when it can be said that for half a century he lived in the public eye without reproach, and that he has gone to his rest amid the regrets of thousands to whom he was personally unknown—when these things can be truly reported of a man there is not much that need or can be added in the way of panegyric, and all these thing's are undoubtedly true of the eminent and remarkable statesman whose loss we now deplore.


My Lords, if it were only my own personal feeling which I wished to express I might have difficulty in excusing myself for adding anything to what your Lordships have heard so well said. To repeat it would be idle; to improve upon it would be impossible. But besides my personal feeling, which is the result of an active and constant communication and cooperation in public affairs with Lord Granville for more than 20 years, during the greater part of that time without any difference of opinion, besides my sense of his kindness experienced during all that time, I have on this occasion to attempt to express the feeling of an absent friend, who would, I know, have been here to-day were it not that he is prevented by an illness which makes his presence impossible—I mean the Duke of Argyll. He longer than myself, longer, perhaps, than almost any of your Lordships, had been on terms of intimate personal communication and friendship with Lord Granville, and of official co-operation also with him during many years. He would have been very desirous of expressing his own feelings on this occasion. He is prevented from doing so; but I am so far in possession of his mind that I may venture to say to your Lordships that, whilst he would have spoken more fully and more eloquently than I can pretend to do, he would have concurred in the substance of the few words which I think your Lordships will excuse me for adding to what has already been said. I think if there were any cause which might possibly lead any person to estimate at less than their true value the services rendered by Lord Granville to his country, that cause was a quality which in him was most admirable—singular disinterestedness and a singular absence of self-assertion on all occasions. He had many opportunities which he would not take of advancing his own personal reputation, but he always thought of the duty which he had to do, and in my judgment he never thought of himself. There was another quality, which, I think, was unique in him, in which he excelled all the public men of his day, as far as my knowledge and memory go, and I can remember Sir Robert Peel, and had the privilege of personal intercourse on many occasions with Lord Russell and Lord Palmerston—of course, I shall not speak of any who yet remain. He had the quality of mitigating the asperity of Party warfare, a quality admirable and excellent at all times; especially in a man who never shrank, as has been well said, either from expressing his opinions, or from doing so with an effect which every one felt. His power of infusing, not merely the gloss of an acquired courtesy, but the innate courtesy of a most genial and generous nature into all that he said and did was a gift at all times most valuable, and perhaps more wanted at the present time than it ever was before. I cannot express a wish more sincere or more to the purpose, I think, for those who in this House may have to take his place than this—that in that respect, as well as in others, they may be able to follow and to imitate his example. On all occasions when great men are taken away from amongst us it is the practice of your Lordships' House to pay such tribute as you can to their memory, and on all such occasions, I believe, that tribute has been sincerely paid: though there have been times when we have availed ourselves of the privilege of looking only to the bright side of the character of those who were taken away and put out of sight, whatever might detract from that brightness. But on this occasion I know of nothing which could dim the brightness, nothing to be suppressed, nothing that could be said in derogation of the praises which have been bestowed on this great man whom we have lost. I believe that there has never been an occasion when the feeling of your Lordships was truer, deeper, or more unanimous.