HL Deb 31 July 1912 vol 12 cc792-5

My Lords, I rise to make the Motion which stands in my name, which from its character I have no doubt that your Lordships would have desired to take at the beginning of business except for the unusual intervention of a private matter of such importance as that with which we have just been dealing. The whole country has seen with deep interest and with profound regret the news of the sad event which has plunged into sorrow the friendly people of Japan. The historical imagination of everybody must be stirred by a break such as this in the succession to an ancient Dynasty which was already old when Rome was still the mistress of the Western world and of the fringe of the Eastern world; and our own sympathies, our political sympathies, are affected by the disappearance of a Sovereign who has been for years the faithful friend and ally of this country. It is impossible that any contemporary can attempt to offer an adequate description of the marvellous changes which took place during the reign of the late Emperor. It must be left to the historian of the future to do justice to the wonderful blending in Japan of the old and the new, the retention of so many things of value accompanied by a series of progressive changes such as in other times and countries have not been brought about by the most rapid and the most violent revolution. We have to travel back in recollection to the reign of our own King Alfred to find anything like a comparable instance of the concentration and regeneration of a people in the lifetime of one ruler and under his auspices; and to find a comparison far nearer our own time we are reminded, in thinking of his late Majesty the Emperor, that another Sovereign, the German Emperor William I, was, like him, the centre of great events and of the making of a new nation, while being, like him, content to leave the meed of much popular recognition and applause to the statesmen and the warriors who helped in the accomplishment of those mighty changes. People in this country knew but little of the personality of the late Emperor, but we were told that in all the relations of life, as the father of his people, in the domestic surroundings of his home, as a sharer in the manly activities of his people, and as a patron and in some degree himself proficient in the culture of letters, he won the regard of all his people. We all know that in Japan the phrase "the divinity which doth hedge a King" is not merely, as it might be elsewhere, the expression of romantic loyalty, but represents the profound conviction of a whole people; and therefore with all the deeper sympathy we offer the condolences of this House to His Majesty the Emperor who has just succeeded, to the whole of his Royal House, and to the people of Japan, and by this Address we beg our own honoured Sovereign to express as the representative of his people the sentiments of the entire country.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to convey to His Majesty the expression of the deep regret with which this House has learned the news of the death of His Majesty's ally and friend the Emperor of Japan, and to pray His Majesty that he will be graciously pleased to express to His Majesty the present Emperor the profound sympathy of this House with the Imperial Family and with the Government and people of Japan.—(The Marquess of Crewe.)


My Lords, I beg to second the Motion which has just been made by the noble Marquess who leads the House. We shall all of us, I am sure, without distinction of Party, desire to assure His Majesty the King of the regret with which we have learned of the death of His Royal ally and friend. We shall also wish to convey our sympathy to the Royal mourners and to the Government and people of Japan. The events of the last few years have drawn this country and the Empire of Japan very closely together. Probably there is no case in history in which, within so short a time, two nations have been so suddenly drawn together and united by so firm a friendship. The development of that friendship would have been remarkable even if the two nations concerned had been Western nations; it is more noteworthy still when we consider, not only the position of the two countries upon the map of the world, but the fact that until quite recent times Japan was as politically remote from this country as she is widely divided from it geographically. At this moment the two countries are on such terms that no great public misfortune could befall the one without deeply moving the people of the other. Such a public misfortune has befallen the Japanese Empire by the loss of a Sovereign who had found the secret of inspiring his people not only with the profoundest patriotism but also with a deep personal regard for himself. The Emperor has been gathered to his ancestors after a long and eventful reign, wonderful in its vicissitudes and glorious in its achievement. For it fell to the lot of the late Emperor to see a complete political transformation in the Government and Constitution of his country, to see that country emerge triumphantly from a series of great historical struggles, and to see her promoted to a place among the Great Powers of the world. In all these pregnant events the late Emperor bore a dignified and momentous part. He was able to combine both in his public and his private life the part of an Eastern Sovereign clothed, as the noble Marquess told us a moment ago, in the eyes of his people with almost divine attributes, with the part of a Constitutional ruler whom any civilised community would gladly have welcomed. If it were appro priate to draw from the literature of the West an epitaph for an Eastern Ruler, we might almost venture to put into the mouth of the late Emperor the noble words which Virgil put into the mouth of a dying Queen:— Et nunc magna mei sub terras ibit imago. We all desire to lay at the feet of the Japanese Royal Family and the people of Japan the expression of our deep regret, and to assure them that the universal sorrow of which we receive such moving and pathetic accounts finds an echo in our hearts.

On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente, and ordered accordingly: The said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.