HL Deb 12 July 1909 vol 2 cc253-5

My Lords, before we proceed to the business of the day I feel sure that I shall be acting in conformity with your Lordships' wishes if I endeavour very briefly to express the general sense of the loss which has been sustained by this House and by the whole country in the death of Lord Ripon, who was so lately with us. Lord Ripon was literally cradled in politics. As many of your Lordships know, he was born at No. 10, Downing-street, during the brief tenure by his father of the office of Prime Minister in 1827. He entered the House of Commons in early life; he obtained office early, and he went on to occupy many of the most important posts both in England and in the Empire, always with distinction and always honourably. Lord Ripon possessed many of the qualities which make for success in public life, but I think his most distinctive quality was that one of courage, without which all others, whether it be Parliamentary eloquence or official industry, or adroitness in the management of affairs, are indeed but sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. Lord Ripon was never afraid of an opponent; and he possessed the even rarer and more valuable quality of never being afraid of a supporter. In addition to that, as many of your Lordships here know, he was one of the most genial of men, always delighting in the successes of younger men and willing to assist them from the rich stores of his experience. At the same time, he was not one of those who suffered fools gladly, or was particularly tolerant of inefficiency in any branch of life. His was, on the whole, a very happy life, I feel sure, and an enviable career. He was, as has been the good fortune of many other public men, singularly happy in his marriage and the circumstances of his home. When the time came for him to lay down the heavy burden of office he retired from your Lordships' House without ostentation, but he did not cease to take a keen interest in public affairs. Only a very few days ago I received a letter from him, dictated, indeed, and signed with a trembling hand, but still full of vivid interest in current affairs. I feel certain that he will not be easily forgotten in this House. To us who were his colleagues, and to any one like myself who have known him all my life, the loss of a friend and a counsellor is irreparable; but I am equally sure that to your Lordships generally the disappearance from this scene of so kindly, so generous, and so distinctive a figure will be universally regretted. We feel, too, that with the departure of Lord Ripon the gates seem to close on a great historical era. He sat in the Cabinet with Lord Palmerston, Lord John Russell, and many other famous men who are no longer here; but I feel that the recollections of him which we shall all retain, whether we agreed with his views on party politics or not, will always be an encouragement to us in the conduct of public affairs and that we shall look back upon his example as that of a brave British statesman.


My Lords, the noble Earl who has just spoken evidently felt, and felt rightly, that in paying his eloquent tribute to the memory of Lord Ripon he spoke not only for himself and for those who sit near him, but for the whole of this House. Lord Ripon's title to public respect certainly stands very high indeed, and nowhere, I venture to think, had he earned a higher title to respect than in the House of Lords. He has gone down to his grave having to his credit a career which extended over no less than sixty years, a career of energy, of useful application to great public objects; and we in this House may reflect with pride that no less than fifty out of those sixty years were spent in your Lordships' House. It happens that during forty of those fifty years I have had the honour of a seat in this House, and I have, therefore, perhaps as good a right as most of your Lordships to bear my humble testimony to the honourable part which Lord Ripon always took in our proceedings. I never knew a member of this House who kept more closely in touch with its business or who took a more honourable part in our deliberations. Lord Ripon filled many high offices. He probably filled most of the offices to which a Peer can aspire. His work will, no doubt, be variously judged according to the standpoint of those who pass judgment upon it; but I think all will give him credit for having been a painstaking and conscientious administrator, and for that quality of courage which the noble Earl so especially attributed to him. It fell to Lord Ripon's lot to lead this House and also to lead the Opposition in this House; and we have often admired the admirable tact with which he acquitted himself in those difficult positions. It is no exaggeration to say that whether in or out of office he commanded the good will of both sides of the House, and that he never left any feeling of resentment in the minds of those from whom it was often his duty to differ. As a debater it always seemed to me that Lord Ripon was entitled to no mean position. His style was perhaps what some of us would now consider a little old-fashioned, but his fire and the energy of his speech recalled those great Victorian statesmen of whom, as the noble Earl told us just now, Lord Ripon was for so many years a colleague. Lord Ripon's death leaves a great blank in this House. We all of us regret him, and we on this side of the House are glad to join you in doing honour to his memory.