HL Deb 16 June 1927 vol 67 cc714-7

My Lords, I would ask you to bear with me for a moment or two while I remind you of the great loss which your Lordships' House has sustained since we were last assembled. I do not propose to read out a catalogue of the great services which, both at home and in the far countries of our Dominions, Lord Lansdowne conferred upon his country. Those things are written in the history of England. But for us it is rather of Lord Lansdowne as we knew him in your Lordships' House that we would like to think. He was a great Parliamentarian, dexterous in speech, wise in judgment, a trusted Leader—all these things he was, but I do not want to dwell upon those points specially any more than I do upon the great part he played in affairs of State and in great chapters of our foreign policy.

He was a man of singular influence in your Lordships' House and we should find it very difficult to mention any other living man who held the same position, for his qualities were very great, not merely in the process of legislation but in the every-day familiarity with him which we all of us had in whatever part of the House we sat. He had a wonderful courtesy and consideration that I am sure all of us felt. It was easy for him to get business through because he appealed to our hearts as well as to our convictions. Then, I think, considering the great posts he had held and the great part he had played, he was a singularly modest man. Anyone who knew him as familiarly as I had the privilege of doing must have been struck with that very remarkable quality. But not merely courtesy, not merely modesty did he possess: he had one other great quality which I should like to mention—namely, great moral courage. We did not, perhaps, always agree with him—I am speaking even of my own friends—but there was a great occasion towards the close of the War in which he took upon himself a great responsibility. When the interests of your country are deeply engaged and when feeling is naturally strained almost to the breaking point, to say the unpopular thing, to advocate the unpopular course, that is high courage, that is the true note of greatness. Such a man, such services, such a character and, if I may use the phrase, so great a gentleman even this country can ill afford to lose.


My Lords, I rise to ask your Lordships to allow me to associate myself with the whole of what has fallen from the noble Marquess. To us who sat here Lord Lansdowne appeared just as he appeared in the eyes of the Leader of the House. I had the privilege myself of knowing him well. Although I never sat in any Government with him I was associated with work under him when he was War Minister—work of a highly technical character which he watched over and entered into with the sympathy that comes from perfect understanding. Then I had cause to be grateful to him, when I was struggling to pass through a very difficult measure for the reconstitution of the Army—a measure over which there was abundant divergence of opinion—for the fairness, for the justness of view and for, I may even say, the sympathy which, without committing himself to particular propositions, he showed in the passage of that measure through Parliament.

But, as the noble Marquess has said, Lord Lansdowne is to be estimated not by any mere appreciation of what he did. It was what he was. It was the influence he exercised. In this House I think he stood for the type of the perfect English gentleman. The noble Marquess used that phrase and I repeat it. He was singularly modest, as has been said, and he was also singularly courageous. He was a very wise man. He looked at both sides of every question and he never allowed partisanship to influence him beyond a proper point. As time went on, he became, perhaps, less associated with those with whom he had at one time been associated. That was not because Lord Lansdowne had changed but because the world was moving along. A Whig he was to the end of time, the old type of Whig, and when the times changed he found himself naturally associated with a certain form of Conservatism. Lord Lansdowne was one of those rare figures—they are very rare—who come just at times and make us better by their presence when they are amongst us. He made us, I think, all better by his presence while he sat in this House, and I think none of us who recognised his familiar figure as it sat on that Bench day after day can but feel that the House and the country are the poorer for the loss that has been sustained.


My Lords, I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without expressing, on behalf of those noble Lords for whom I have the honour to speak, our most hearty and heartfelt concurrence with the eulogies that have already been pronounced by the noble Marquess and the noble and learned Viscount who has spoken. I am the more anxious to do so because I suppose I speak for those who were the most seldom to be found in the same Lobby as Lord Lansdowne. None the less we yield to nobody in our respect for his abilities, for his career and above all, as the noble and learned Viscount so justly said, for what he was. The noble Marquess has emphasised his courtesy and dignity. They were conspicuous features of his character. They were so great that they enforced courtesy and dignity upon everybody who was in his presence and the House was always the richer for the example that he set us in those directions.

His was, I think, a career of remarkable consistency. He held the same views at the end as when he first entered public life in Mr. Gladstone's Government in 1868—a Government which many of my noble friends will think was one of the best Governments with which Mr. Gladstone was connected. In an hereditary House at any rate it is, I think, interesting to remember that the courage to which the noble Marquess has just referred was shown by his ancestor, the first Lord Lansdowne, who, against the wishes of the King and the Court, was the person who undertook without flinching the odium of making peace with the United States of America and of recognising them as an independent authority. We recognised, whether we agreed with his views or not, the same courage in Lord Lansdowne as was possessed by his ancestor.

He had what is perhaps one of the most valuable things which our public life can command—a great experience of public affairs. Over a long life he was intimately connected with the affairs of the Empire in one capacity or another and his experience in Canada and in India enabled him to bring to the discussion of our Imperial affairs an amount of information which was of constant use to your Lordships' House. Indeed, I think it is not unfair to say that he had an unrivalled experience of public affairs and that it lent to his judgment and to his authority a great deal of weight in your Lordships' House. We all admired his character and his career, but, more than that, I do not think that it is too much to say that his character was a lovable character. We all appreciated his courage, his independence and his abilities, and in this House especially I think one final tribute ought to be paid to the care he bestowed upon all the business in your Lordships' House and elsewhere and to the care and attention with which he prepared himself for all the discussions which took place in this House. It is indeed true to say that it will be long before we look upon his like again.


My Lords, I crave to be allowed to thank the noble Marquess the Leader of the House for the words that he spoke about our dear departed friend Lord Lansdowne. Though I represent no Party may I be allowed, as one who probably had known him longer than anyone in this assembly with perhaps one or two exceptions, to say how grateful I am to have been permitted to hear the words that have fallen from my Leader's lips. Lord Lansdowne was indeed a great man, a great gentleman, and above all a great Christian, one whom it is an honour to have known and one who leaves behind him in this House a feeling of love and respect which it will be difficult ever to equal.

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