HL Deb 18 May 1908 vol 188 cc1528-32

My Lords, I am sorry for the absence of my noble friend Lord Crewe, in whose name stands the Motion which I am about to make. I cannot hope to emulate the felicitous words he would have addressed to you; but it needs no speech of mine to recommend the Motion to your Lordships, and you will desire me to use but a few words. On two recent occasions, tributes, cordial in feeling and graceful in appreciation, have been offered by the official spokesmen on both sides of the two Houses of Parliament to that kindly and honoured figure whose passing from amidst us unites all parties of the State in a common sorrow; and if we refrain now from further speeches of eulogy it is not because his memory has ceased to dwell in our hearts.

The action which the Government have determined to take is in accordance with precedent. Thrice in my own presence and recollection similar Motions have been laid before the two Houses of Parliament after the death of a statesman who had filled the highest office to which a servant of the Crown can aspire, and curiously enough on all those three occasions the Motion was made in the month of May. On 9th May, 1881, in honour of Lord Beaconsfield; on 20th May, 1898, in honour of Mr. Gladstone; and on 17th May, 1904, in honour of the late Lord Salisbury; and now, on 18th May, a similar Motion is going to be passed in honour of my dear friend the late Prime Minister. My Lords, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was not endowed with the brilliancy of Lord Beaconsfield or the universal genius of Mr. Gladstone, or the commanding intellect of Lord Salisbury; but he yielded to none of them in the unbounded devotion with which he inspired his followers, and the affectionate esteem with which he was regarded by his political opponents. Justus et tenax propositi, he lived his life and served the public weal, endeared to all who knew him by his modesty, his transparent straightforwardness, his genial humour, and his responsive sympathy with the weak and suffering amongst his fellow men, He was pre-eminently a good man as "goodness" is defined by Bacon— The parts and signs of goodness are many; if a man be gracious, and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them; if he be compassionate towards the afflictions of others it shows that his heart is like the noble tree that is wounded itself when it gives the balm. May I add a few words as to the private life of my friend Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman? I had the privilege of living with him on intimate terms for more than thirty years; he was a trusted friend, and I know how he sympathised in the joys and sorrows of all around him. He was a good guest; he was a better host. He was full of good stories and recollections of the past. He was a marvellous French scholar. I think all of you will agree that some of his French speeches were really tour de force, and combined humour with the very best French idiom. These were great qualities. But he had a higher quality still, and that was the great love and devotion he showed towards his wife, Lady Campbell-Bannerman. He had the most absolute confidence in her judgment. He referred to her in all difficult situations, and I am sure that many of the decisions of his life were come to upon her advice. I have twice stood by the open grave that contains the coffins of Sir Henry and Lady Campbell-Bannerman, and I can assure you I have brought hack from that experience a sweet and fragrant memory. I close my few observations as I began. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman may not have been cast in the same mould as the three giants of whom I have spoken; he, I think, was made of a milder steel; he trusted to conciliation rather than to aggression and compulsion, and so did good service to his party, his country, and his King. My Lords, I submit that it is meet and right that a memorial should be raised to him in our Abbey of Westminster, where are found the effigies of so many British statesmen of renown close to the scene of their most arduous labours.

Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying that His Majesty will give directions that a monument be erected in the Collegiate Church of St. Peter, Westminster, to the memory of the late Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, with an inscription expressive of the high sense entertained by this House of the eminent services rendered by him to the country in Parliament and in great offices of State, and to assure His Majesty that this House will concur in giving effect to His Majesty's directions. "—(Lord Tweedmouth.)


My Lords, I have already on previous occasions endeavoured to express, and, I believe, with the concurrence of those who sit near me, our admiration for the many qualities that distinguished the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. We sympathise and we desire to express our sympathy with those who, either as colleagues or private friends, are lamenting his loss. It is right and proper that such men, with such a record, should be honoured, and that their memories should be kept alive by suitable memorials erected at the public expense.

We certainly, therefore, on this side of the House offer no sort of objection to the Motion of my noble friend so far as it relates to the propriety of honouring the late Prime Minister; but I do trust that noble Lords opposite will not think I am approaching the subject in any carping spirit when I venture to address to your Lordships a word of warning with regard to that part of my noble friend's Motion which proposes that the memorial shall be erected in Westminster Abbey. I say this for three reasons. There are three considerations that I think will be obvious to all. In the first place the Abbey, the noblest of our national Cathedrals, is already crowded, I might almost say indecently crowded, with memorials to public men, some eminently distinguished, others not so well known to fame. The congestion of memorials, in my opinion, detracts from the beauty and dignity of the Abbey. It is so great that, as your Lordships will recollect, when not long ago it was determined to erect a monument to the late Lord Salisbury, it was found that this could only be done by interfering with the position of other monuments already in possession of the ground. I cannot, my Lords, help thinking that the time has come when we might cry "Halt "in this process of erecting monuments to our public men in Westminster Abbey.

My noble friend relies in this instance on precedents, and he has mentioned cases in which memorials have been erected to deceased Prime Ministers within the precincts of Westminster Abbey. But I am sure it must have been pointed out to my noble friend that a considerable number of Prime Ministers, men of great distinction, have not been honoured by memorials within the precincts of the Abbey. There have been eight since Pitt. I may mention the names of Lord Liverpool, Lord Grey, Lord Melbourne, and Lord Derby, none of whom have been honoured by memorials in the Abbey. There would therefore, in my opinion, have been nothing at all invidious so far as Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was concerned if it had been decided to erect a monument to his honour in some place other than the Abbey. It cannot be contended that there are not other sites convenient for the purpose. There are, for example, the precincts of the Houses of Parliament, inside and outside the precincts of the House with which he was closely associated. For these reasons I confess I should not have been surprised had His Majesty's Government hesitated to propose the erection of this monument in the Abbey itself. But that is a matter no doubt they have fully considered. I do not at all desire on this occasion to press my objection or to say anything that might seem to denote grudging acquiescence in the Motion; all I wish to do is to raise a note of warning and to express the hope that in future we may think twice before we lay down a rule that all Prime Ministers are, as a matter of course, to have monuments erected to their memory in Westminster Abbey.


My Lords, I am quite sure that the remarks—the just remarks—which my noble friend has made with regard to the over-crowding of Westimnster Abbey were not suggested to him in any degree in connection with the person whom we propose to honour this evening. What my noble friend has said is perfectly true. No doubt Westminster Abbey is much crowded, and I hope that future Governments will bear the suggestion of my noble friend in mind; and, though I do not think it is so very easy to find a place equally suited to the purpose as the Abbey itself, yet I am quite sure we all feel the force of the observations of the noble Marquess.

On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentience.

Ordered that the said Address be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with the;White Staves.