Henry Campbell-Bannerman

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Liberal politics meant the politics of common-sense.

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman GCB (September 7, 1836April 22, 1908) was a British Liberal statesman who served as Prime Minister from December 5, 1905 until resigning due to ill health on April 3, 1908. No previous First Lord of the Treasury had been officially called "Prime Minister"; this term only came into official usage after he took office. In the 1906 general election he led the Liberal Party to their biggest ever majority.




  • There are many who croak that the decadence of the Empire has commenced. I am no believer in anything of that sort. If the glory of this country is founded on foreign aggression, if it is supported by military force, if it be dependent on our power of extorting unwilling allegiance from members of our race in distant quarters of the globe—if all this is to be glory that is to attach to a Christian nation like this—if this is the glory, I rejoice that it is passing away. I am not sneering at all at the past history of our country, I am aware that in the past we have acted according to the spirit of the age and we have shown ourselves equal to any other nation. But let us not revert to that state of things; let us not go back instead of forward. Let us rather show other nations a more excellent way; let us set ourselves to encourage a brotherly, friendly, generous spirit among the nations, and at home let us apply ourselves to the reduction of that jealousy and distrust which at present exist, and to the promotion of a more friendly spirit among all classes; and let us above all attack the tremendous task that we have before us in the conquering of the monster of ignorance and vice which exists amongst us.
    • Speech in Stirling Burghs after the declaration of the poll of the by-election in which Campbell-Bannerman was the unsuccessful candidate (30 April 1868), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), pp. 27-28
  • I know that I possess the sympathy and the goodwill of the working-classes of the Burghs. I say I know it. Not that I hope for it—I say I have it. And there has been nothing that has occurred during the last six months which has belied that conviction. Wherever I have gone I have been received with the greatest kindness and hearty goodwill, and in every part of the constituency the general public have crowned me with honours which I have done nothing to deserve. All that I want from you is to afford me the opportunity of deserving this honour. Entrust your Parliamentary interests to me. I promise to devote myself to your service and to show by my conduct that I reciprocate the great sympathy, kindness, and confidence which you have placed in me.
    • Speech in Stirling Burghs during the general election campaign (c. November 1868), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), p. 29
  • My appearance in such a proud posture is owing to the support I have received from my friends of the working classes. In the words of a paraphrase of Horace, the Scottish working man is
    "a stubborn chiel,
    As hot as ginger and as true as steel."
    • Speech from the window of his hotel, where he had been carried shoulder-high after his election for Stirling Burghs (c. 7 December 1868), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), p. 29
  • Now, Sir, even supposing—which many may doubt—that it is advisable to supplement at the University the religious training which is better received at home, and at an earlier period of life, I venture to submit that this so-called "religious education" has no substantial value.
  • This is not, I say, a sectarian question, it is a national question; it is not a question of aggrandizing or denuding any individual sect, it is a question of raising the efficiency of the Universities as national instruments of education; and I firmly believe that the infusion of new blood, which will result from the adoption of this policy, will speedily bring their teaching organization into greater harmony with the times... We wish to see the Universities thrown altogether open to the nation; and thus, while the nation derives the full benefit of the high traditional position of those great institutions, my hope is, that the freer and fuller life of the nation will in turn react on the Universities, and render them better qualified to fill their high position.
  • In general, we, who are in favour of compulsory education, are told that it is impracticable...because it is opposed by the general feeling of Scotland. Now, I can assure the House that that is not the case. As far as my experience goes, I believe our countrymen in the North are far too shrewd to be misled by any fear of the horrors attendant on compulsory education, and the interference which it is supposed to create with the liberty of the subject.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Scottish Parochial Schools Bill (27 July 1869)


  • There would be, in fact, in Scotland, when this Bill received its full development, a purely and entirely denominational system of education. There was only one solution of the difficulty, and that was this—the State should cease to undertake the religious education of children. The Scottish people were, perhaps, more than any other imbued with the spirit of religion; there was no country where religious and moral training was more highly prized... In that country it would, therefore, be perfectly safe to leave religious instruction to voluntary effort... If they had, instead of adopting a course of compromise, adhered to their own principles, and thrown themselves on the loyal support of their own party, they would not only have carried their Bill, but—what was of far more importance—they would have laid down sound lines upon which, by common consent, might have been built a national system of education for each of the three divisions of the kingdom.
  • The evils attending the traffic in offices had been well known in past times; Parliament, in its wisdom, had raised barriers against them; and the present House was asked to pull these barriers down, and to renounce the principle which hitherto had governed the public service of England, Naval, Military, and Civil—the principle that men entered the service not that the poor man might make gain, nor that the rich man might indulge his fancy, but in order that rich and poor alike might do their duty.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Bill to legalise money payments for regimental exchanges (22 February 1875)
  • He was entirely in favour of minimizing public-houses. He thought too many facilities for drinking existed in Scotland; but at the same time he thought they ought to be judged and dealt with by local authorities—at any rate, this House should not, without hesitation and inquiry, commit itself to an arbitrary rule of this kind.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Scottish Temperance Bill (14 March 1877)


  • Liberal politics meant the politics of common-sense.
    • The Spectator (17 February 1884), pp. 223-224, quoted in John Wilson, C.B.: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1973), p. 230
  • My recent connection with the Government of Ireland has only served to increase my appreciation of the difficulties to be met by those who administer the affairs of that country. I am desirous of seeing at the earliest possible moment a large extension of local self-government in Ireland; but I would give no countenance to the scheme of those who seek to injure this country, as they would assuredly ruin their own, by separation under one name or another.
    • Election address (c. 15 October 1885), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), p. 89
  • Mr. Gladstone has shown us in many cases how his high authority, his knowledge of affairs, his firm grasp of principles, his marvellous mastery of details can subdue difficulties and guide us out of a labyrinth from which it might seem hopeless to seek an issue. Let us rejoice that his bodily force is not yet seriously abated, and let us hope that in the coming Parliament to which he himself has summoned the fresh energy of the newly enfranchised electors, he may add yet this signal service to those he has already rendered to his country.
    • Speech in Stirling (23 October 1885), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), p. 89
  • It is not too much to say that the fact that the responsible Government of the Queen has proposed to Parliament the establishment of a statutory Parliament in Ireland, with full control of Irish affairs, is the gravest and most startling event in the political life of any man among us.
  • [T]here is and has been this popular feeling in Ireland extending gradually and steadily against our rule; and it is this spirit which constitutes the difficulty of government in Ireland. Let not the House think that it has anything whatever to do with crime and disorder... [N]o strengthening of legal powers, no exercise of law, whether exceptional or ordinary, can operate in check of a growing national feeling such as this. If you try to check it you will probably do nothing but exasperate it and make it stronger. And when, in addition to all this, on looking closely into what the object of this national sentiment is, we find that there is nothing in it mischievous or unreasonable, and that the object it has in view—which is the self-government of Ireland—is one which is in conformity with equity, reason, and common sense, I say we are called upon to go a step further, and, when we find our difficulty arising from this source, we ought to try whether by yielding to the wishes of the Irish people we may not take the shortest way to bring quiet and good government to that country.
  • [W]e must give to the Irish people, in one form or another, the self-government they desire.
  • My own conviction is that it is only by local parliaments & local executives in each of the three kingdoms that we can settle H[ome] R[ule] at all... [M]y experience is that everywhere I go the body of a meeting favours Scotch H.R. ... It is not a doctrine imposed on the people by us for our purposes: it is a genuine growth of popular opinion... Scotch Home Rule involves English H. Rule; and that not one in a thousand Englishmen has ever grasped the idea of having a local Parlt. as apart from the common Imperial Parlt., so that Scotch Home Rule must wait until the sluggish mind of John Bull is educated up to that point. Nothing rash, but nothing discouraging, is therefore, I think, what ought to be our motto.
    • Letter to Donald Crawford (1889), quoted in John Wilson, C.B.: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1973), pp. 155-156


  • Is there any man in the House who would think of sending an Army Corps on the Continent to engage in a Continental war with one of the great European nations? Such a possibility I dismiss from my mind altogether. What we want our Army for is to garrison India and the Colonies, to defend the shores of this country, and to supply those small special expeditions which are from time to time sent out to the small wars, in which, unfortunately, we are often engaged.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (9 March 1893)
  • I have said that in my opinion at the present time, as to the main fabric of our Army system, the truest courage and the best reforming wisdom lies in leaving well alone.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (15 March 1895)
  • What do we mean by this Liberalism of which we talk? … I should say it means the acknowledgement in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can, at least, avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life.
    • The Liberal Magazine (January 1898), p. 530, quoted in John Wilson, C.B.: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1973), p. 232
  • I am enough son of my country and have enough of the Shorter Catechism still sticking about my inside to do my best when a thing comes straight to me.
    • Letter to John Ellis shortly before he became leader of the Liberal Party (c. January 1899), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), p. 216

Leader of the Opposition

  • I am well aware—no one is better aware—that I am poorly equipped for the duties of that position in comparison with some distinguished men who have gone before me; but there is one thing in which I will yield to none of them—namely, in my devotion to the Liberal party and my faithful adherence to Liberal principles.
    • Speech in the Reform Club to the meeting of Liberal members of the House of Commons, where Campbell-Bannerman was selected leader of the Liberal Party (6 February 1899), quoted in The Times (7 February 1899), p. 10
  • I declare in the strongest terms that I am, above all things, a loyal son of the House of Commons, and that I place before all interests, even the interest of the great historic party to which I am proud to belong, the maintenance and the advancement of the name and fame and power of the great Assembly to which we all belong.
    • Speech in the Reform Club to the meeting of Liberal members of the House of Commons, where Campbell-Bannerman was selected leader of the Liberal Party (6 February 1899), quoted in The Times (7 February 1899), p. 10
  • Now, what is the position of us Liberals with regard to the government of Ireland? ... We have a constitutional demand to which you and I as Democrats cannot refuse to listen. We have a desire for self government which you and I as Liberals must see to be the basis of good order and prosperity. We have a recognition of the patriotic feeling of nationality of which we and those who have gone before us have been the champions again and again, and we see the supremacy of the Imperial power and Parliament fully maintained. Why, gentlemen, how then can we, as long as we use the name of Liberal—how can we abandon, as they invite us to do, our Irish policy? We will remain true to the Irish people as long as the Irish people are true to themselves.
    • Speech in the Circus, Anlaby Road, Hull (8 March 1899), quoted in The Times (9 March 1899), p. 6
  • The greatest of British interests is peace.
    • Speech in the Circus, Anlaby Road, Hull (8 March 1899), quoted in The Times (9 March 1899), p. 6
  • If an Imperialist means a man who would maintain at the highest pitch the power by land and sea of the Empire, who would secure perfect safety for these islands from hostile attack, but who is not content to confine his view to these islands; who would preserve the territorial integrity and interests of the Empire; who would guard our rights of trade either within the Empire or beyond its bounds; and who would strengthen by every means in his power the ties that bind us to our kinsmen in every quarter of the globe—if that is to be an Imperialist, then, ladies and gentlemen, there is not a man here, there is not a man in this great Liberal meeting, who is not as unflinching an Imperialist as those who have the word always on their lips. We are not afraid of the responsibilities of Empire, we are proud to be the guardians of the heritage handed down by our fathers, nay, we do not shrink from adding to it if duty or honour compels us; but we abjure the vulgar and bastard Imperialism of irritation, and provocation, and aggression, of clever tricks and manoeuvres against neighbours, and of grabbing everything even if we have no use for it ourselves.
    • Speech in the Circus, Anlaby Road, Hull (8 March 1899), quoted in The Times (9 March 1899), p. 6
  • As to war itself, a direct preparation for actual hostilities, I must only repeat here what I have said elsewhere, that from the beginning of this story to the end of it I can see nothing whatever which furnishes a case for armed intervention... [A] war in South Africa—a war with one of the independent States in South Africa—would be one of the direst calamities that could occur.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (28 July 1899)
  • Mine is "Common-sense Imperialism." I should be much surprised if it were not found that I belong to the largest congregation of all who worship at that shrine. We have in this country an overflowing population, and we are bound to find for their industrial energy ever fresh and fresh fields and outlets. We, therefore, cannot do a work more patriotic and more conducive to the happiness of our own people at home than by developing the resources of the Empire, by securing our trade rights, and by cultivating close, cordial and active relations with all the members of the British family scattered throughout the world. There is ample room here for all our activity, and for my part I grudge to see any of that activity diverted to the acquisition—sometimes it may be inevitable—to the acquisition of new dominions which may bring us glory, but which very often is rather a burden than a source of advantage for many years.
    • Speech in Birmingham (24 November 1899), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), pp. 257-258
  • To my mind, the dominant point of the situation is not South Africa, where we can and must win, but the critical and dangerous state of our position in Europe. I believe the Opposition can do inestimable service to the country in producing a better state of things relatively to Europe. But, to bring that about, it is absolutely essential that we should dissociate ourselves from the Raid and Chamberlainism.
    • Letter (c. January 1900), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), p. 275
  • I am half-surprised to find that as I go on I get more and more confirmed in the old advanced Liberal principles, economic, social, & political, with which I entered Parliament 30 years ago.
    • Letter to John Spencer (19 February 1900), quoted in John Wilson, C.B.: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1973), p. 326
  • I have never uttered a pro-Boer word: I have been anti-Joe but never pro-Kruger.
    • Letter to Herbert Gladstone (1 June 1900), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), p. 279
  • I would plainly say that most men who have looked all round this question must have seen that, as a matter of course, the two belligerent states—the two conquered states—must in some form or other become states of the British Empire. We must recognise accomplished facts, we must accept the inevitable results of the war, we must do whatever it may be which will most conduce to the permanent tranquillity and security of South Africa, and we must set before us as our chief aim, after the security of the Imperial power, the conciliation and harmonious co-operation of the two European races in South Africa. Now, how is this to be done? Is that a question which I need ask any meeting of Liberals? We need have no doubt how it is to be done—by applying our Liberal principles, the Liberal principles from which the strength of the Empire has been derived and on which it depends. Let us apply our Liberal principles... Let us restore as early as possible and let us maintain those rights of self-government which give not only life and vigour but contentment and loyalty to every colony which enjoys them.
    • Speech in Glasgow (7 June 1900), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), pp. 281-282
  • Now, everybody was a "pro-Boer" who did not agree to everything Mr. Chamberlain did, and who said "Here is a people fighting gallantly for the independence of their own country; for goodness sake do not attribute every sort of evil to them while you are fighting them; when you have got them down, treat them with the respect and honour that such a people ought to receive—a people who, though they may be mistaken and entirely wrong, are conscientiously fighting for the independence of their own land." For taking this view he was called a pro-Boer. That again was a gross slander and falsehood, and that newspapers and politicians should stoop to a mean artifice of that kind was a scandal and a disgrace to the political life of to-day.
    • Speech in Alyth, Perthshire during the general election campaign (6 October 1900), quoted in The Times (8 October 1900), p. 11
  • The proper way to lead the Boers into harmony with us and restore contentment and prosperity to the whole community was to leave them alone as far as possible—to leave them with their old form of government, with their own ways, with their own machinery of government—in order that the burgher, when he went about his daily life, should discern as little as possible the difference between that which happened to him as a British subject and that which happened to him when he was the subject of an independent State.
    • Speech in Kilmarnock during the general election campaign (11 October 1900), quoted in The Times (12 October 1900), p. 9
  • I confess that the thing which concerns me most is to find that Chamberlainism pays with our Country men. They worship a forcible man and a clever man, and if his methods are vulgar, dishonourable, unfair, they only smile and approve. The lowering of the standard of public life is a far worse evil, because more permanent, than toryism, jingoism, or any other heresy; panem et circenses: money spent in the country, flags to wave, bluster to shout for—that is the object: let right and honour and freedom go and be hanged! The commencement de siècle morals, apparently!
    • Letter to Lord Ripon after the Liberals were defeated in the general election (29 October 1900), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), p. 298
  • That policy is directed to two main objects—first, that we should clearly make known to the peoples of the belligerent States, not in vague but in definite terms, that our purpose is not conquest but conciliation, not humiliation but friendship and freedom; and in the second place, that these terms should include the re-settlement in their homes of the burghers, who by capture or the operations of war have been dispossessed, and the establishment, as soon as order is restored, of free self-governing institutions... If we are to maintain the political supremacy of the British power in South Africa—and this surely is the end and purpose of all we are doing—it can only be by conciliation and friendship; it will never be by domination and ascendancy, because the British power cannot there or elsewhere rest securely unless it rests upon the willing consent of a sympathetic and contented people.
    • Speech at a dinner of the Eighty and Russell Clubs in Oxford (2 March 1901), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), p. 326
  • What is that policy? That now that we had got the men we had been fighting against down, we should punish them as severely as possible, devastate their country, burn their homes, break up their very instruments of agriculture.. It is that we should sweep – as the Spaniards did in Cuba; and how we denounced the Spaniards! – the women and children into camps...in some of which the death-rate has risen so high as 430 in the thousand. I do not say for a moment, because I do not think for a moment, that this is the deliberate and intentional policy of His Majesty's Government...at all events, it is the thing which is being done at this moment in the name and by the authority of this most humane and Christian nation. Yesterday I asked the leader of the House of Commons when the information would be afforded, of which we are so sadly in want. My request was refused. Mr. Balfour treated us with a short disquisition on the nature of war. A phrase often used is that "war is war", but when one comes to ask about it one is told that no war is going on, that it is not war. When is a war not a war? When it is carried on by methods of barbarism in South Africa.
    • Speech in the Holborn Restaurant (14 June 1901), quoted in John Wilson, C.B.: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1973), p. 349
  • All that he said about the clean state and efficiency was an affront to Liberalism & was pure claptrap – Efficiency as a watchword! Who is against it? This is all a mere réchauffé of Mr. Sydney Webb who is evidently the chief instructor of the whole faction.
    • Letter to Herbert Gladstone on Lord Rosebery's speech advocating national efficiency collectivism (18 December 1901), quoted in John Wilson, C.B.: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1973), p. 371
  • We have in all things three great enemies: (1) devotion to material prosperity, national and individual; (2) love of sport and gambling in all forms; (3) apathy.
    • Letter to A. Crowe (10 May 1902), quoted in Frank Trentmann, Free Trade Nation: Commerce, Consumption, and Civil Society in Modern Britain (2008), p. 63
  • [W]hat is the constitutional bearing of these stipulations? ...It is perfectly monstrous...It means that we abandon our fiscal independence, together with our free-trade ways; that we subside into the tenth part of a Vehmgericht which is to direct us what sugar is to be countervailed, at what rate per cent. we are to countervail it, how much is to be put on for the bounty, and how much for the tariff being in excess of the convention tariff; and this being the established order of things, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer in his robes obeys the orders that he receives from this foreign convention, in which the Britisher is only one out of ten, and the House of Commons humbly submits to the whole transaction. ("Shame.") Sir, of all the insane schemes ever offered to a free country as a boon this is surely the maddest. (Cheers.)
    • Speech to the Cobden Club denouncing the Brussels sugar convention (28 November 1902), quoted in The Times (29 November 1902), p. 12
  • We are keenly in sympathy with the representatives of Labour. We have too few of them in the House of Commons. ...The Liberal party, high and low, have discovered, if they ever forgot it, that the real road to success...lies in adhering to the old principles of the party.
    • Speech to Liberals in Belmont (2 January 1903), quoted in John Wilson, C.B.: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1973), p. 394
  • Why are we free-traders? ... We are satisfied that it is right because it gives the freest play to individual energy and initiative and character and the largest liberty both to producer and consumer. We say that trade is injured when it is not allowed to follow its natural course, and when it is either hampered or diverted by artificial obstacles. ... We believe in free trade because we believe in the capacity of our countrymen. That at least is why I oppose protection root and branch, veiled and unveiled, one-sided or reciprocal. I oppose it in any form. Besides we have experience of fifty years, during which our prosperity has become the envy of the world.
    • Speech in Bolton (15 October 1903), quoted in The Times (16 October 1903), p. 6
  • I may be a Liberal and I may be a party man and I may be a Parliament man, but I am something before it all—I am a Scot, a Scot of Scots, not an Anglofied Scot, not even that other variety and combination to which we often owe much—a Scotofied Anglo. I am a Scotland Scot, and I trust I know something of my countrymen and understand their feelings, their prejudices, their weaknesses, which I share. That I believe is a great bond, if you will allow me to say so, between you and me.
    • Speech to a dinner of the Scottish Liberal Club in Edinburgh (4 November 1904), quoted in The Times (5 November 1904), p. 12

Prime Minister

  • I hold that the growth of armaments is a great danger to the peace of the world. A policy of huge armaments keeps alive and stimulates and feeds the belief that force is the best, if not the only, solution of international differences. It is a policy that tends to inflame old sores and to create new sores. And I submit to you that as the principles of peaceful arbitration gains ground it becomes one of the highest tasks of a statesman to adjust those armaments to the newer and happier condition of things. (Cheers.) What nobler role could this great country assume than at the fitting moment to place itself at the head of a league of peace, through whose instrumentality this great work could be effected? (Cheers.)
    • Speech in the Albert Hall, London, opening the Liberal Party's election campaign (21 December 1905), quoted in The Times (22 December 1905), p. 7
  • We want two things. We want relief from the pressure of excessive taxation, and at the same time we want money to meet our own domestic needs at home, which have been too long starved and neglected owing to the demands on the taxpayer for military purposes abroad.
    • Speech in the Albert Hall, London (21 December 1905), quoted in The Times (22 December 1905), p. 7
  • [W]ith an increasing military expenditure, how can we do the work of reform that remains to be done at home and at the same time bring relief to the taxpayers? Do not let us mind if in their folly they call us “Little Englanders.” (Cheers.) I at least am patriot enough not to desire to see the weakening of my country by such a waste of money as we have had for the last ten years. What has it brought us, this waste of money for ten years? Shall I recite some links in the dismal and ugly chain? Dear money. Lower credit. Less enterprise in business and manufactures. A reduced home demand. Therefore, reduced output to meet it. Therefore, reductions in wages, increase of pauperism, non-employment. (Cheers.) The fact is, Sir, you cannot pile up debt and taxation as they have been piled up without feeling the strain in every fibre of society. We are going to have a good deal said for the next few weeks about free trade. Let me add another thing. Did you ever hear a fiscal reformer pleading for economy, or crying out for lighter taxes and fewer of them? No, Sir, if peace and retrenchment were the order of the day, Othello's occupation would be gone. (Cheers.)
    • Speech in the Albert Hall, London (21 December 1905), quoted in The Times (22 December 1905), p. 7
  • Expenditure calls for taxes, and taxes are the plaything of the tariff reformer. Militarism, extravagance, protection are weeds which grow in the same field, and if you want to clear the field for honest cultivation you must root them all out. For my own part, I do not believe that we should have been confronted by the spectre of protection if it had not been for the South African war. ... Depend upon it that in fighting for our open ports and for the cheap food and material upon which the welfare of the people and the prosperity of our commerce depend we are fighting against those powers, privileges, injustices, and monopolies which are unalterably opposed to the triumph of democratic principles.
    • Speech in the Albert Hall, London (21 December 1905), quoted in The Times (22 December 1905), p. 7
  • For ten years they [the Conservative Party] have been supported by an immense majority in the House of Commons. ... The period over which we are looking back presents itself to me, I confess, as a well-nigh unbroken expanse of mismanagement; of legislation conducted for the benefit of privileged classes and powerful interests; of wars and adventures abroad hastily embarked upon and recklessly pursued. The legacy which they have bequeathed to their successors...is in the main a legacy of embarrassment, an accumulation of public mischief appalling in its extent and ramifications.
    • Election Address, quoted in The Times (8 January 1906), p. 8
  • Ten years ago the incoming Conservative Government found the national finances in good order. .... What do we find to-day? Expenditure and indebtedness have been piled up, the income-tax stands at a shilling, war taxes are continued in peace time, the national credit is impaired, and a heavy depreciation has taken place in securities of every description. You only have to look around to see the result. Industry is burdened, enterprise is restricted, workmen are thrown out of employment, and the poorer classes are straitened still further in their circumstances.
    • Election Address, quoted in The Times (8 January 1906), p. 8
  • I hold that protection is not only bad economy, but that it is an agency at once immoral and oppressive, based as it is and must be on the exploitation of the community in the interest of favoured trades and financial groups. I hold it to be a corrupting system, because honesty and purity of administration must be driven to the wall if once the principle of taxes for revenue be departed from in favour of the other principle, which I conceive to be of the essence of protection—that, namely, of taxes for private beneficiaries.
    • Election Address, quoted in The Times (8 January 1906), p. 8
  • The right hon. gentleman is like the Bourbons. He has learned nothing. He comes back to this new House of Commons with the same airy graces – the same subtle dialectics – and the same light and frivolous way of dealing with great questions. He little knows the temper of the new House of Commons if he thinks those methods will prevail here. The right hon. gentleman has...asked certain questions which he seemed to think were posers. ...I have no direct answer to give to them. They are utterly futile, nonsensical and misleading. They are invented by the right hon. gentleman for the purpose of occupying time in this debate. I say, enough of this foolery. … Move your amendments and let us get to business.
    • Speech in the House of Commons answering the Conservative leader, Arthur Balfour (12 March 1906), quoted in John Wilson, C.B.: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1973), p. 497
  • The bonds of mutual understanding and esteem are strengthening between the peoples, and the time is approaching when nothing can hold back from them the knowledge that it is they who are the victims of war and militarism; that war in its tawdry triumphs scatters the fruits of their labour, breaks down the paths of progress, and turns the fire of constructive energy into a destroying force.
    • Speech to the opening of the 14th Inter-Parliamentary Conference in the Royal Gallery of Westminster Palace (23 July 1906), quoted in The Times (24 July 1906), p. 3
  • [W]e who base our confidence and our hopes on the Parliamentary system—New institutions have often a disturbed, if not a stormy youth. The Duma will revive in one form or another. We can say with all sincerity, “The Duma is dead; long live the Duma.”
    • Speech to the opening of the 14th Inter-Parliamentary Conference in the Royal Gallery of Westminster Palace (23 July 1906), quoted in The Times (24 July 1906), p. 3
  • [O]ur aim is...to secure a national and not a denominational system, public and not sectarian, on the general basis of a common Christianity instead of a sectional Christianity, to make our educational system the handmaid of the community and not the handmaid of any church or sect, and to prevent the common schools of the country, which are maintained out of the public purse, from being provided and worked with two doors...one bringing in the poor little children from the streets, and the other ushering them into a particular church.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Education Bill (20 December 1906)
  • Now the question we have to ask ourselves is—Is the general election and its result to go for nothing? ... It is plainly intolerable, Sir, that a second Chamber should, while one Party in the State is in power, be its willing servant, and when that Party has received an unmistakable and emphatic condemnation by the country, the House of Lords should then be able to neutralise, thwart, and distort the policy which the electors have approved... A settlement of this grave question of education has been prevented, and for that calamity we know, and the country knows, upon whom the responsibility lies. But, Sir, the resources of the British Constitution are not wholly exhausted, the resources of the House of Commons are not exhausted, and I say with conviction that a way must be found, a way will be found, by which the will of the people expressed through their elected representatives in this House will be made to prevail.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Education Bill (20 December 1906)
  • [T]he concentration of human beings in towns...is contrary to nature, and...this abnormal existence is bound to issue in suffering, deterioration, and gradual destruction to the mass of the population...countless thousands of our fellow-men, and still a larger number of children...are starved of air and space and sunshine. ... This view of city life, which is gradually coming home to the heart and understanding and the conscience of our people, is so terrible that it cannot be put away. What is all our wealth and learning and the fine flower of our civilisation and our Constitution and our political theories – what are all these but dust and ashes, if the men and women, on whose labour the whole social fabric is maintained, are doomed to live and die in darkness and misery in the recesses of our great cities? We may undertake expeditions on behalf of oppressed tribes and races, we may conduct foreign missions, we may sympathise with the cause of unfortunate nationalities; but it is our own people, surely, who have the first claim upon us. ... [T]he air must be purified...the sunshine must be allowed to stream in, the water and the food must be kept pure and unadulterated, the streets light and clean. ... [T]he measure of your success in bringing these things to pass will be the measure of the arresting of the terrible powers of race degeneration which is going on in the countless sunless streets.
    • Speech in Belmont (25 January 1907), quoted in John Wilson, C.B.: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1973), p. 588
  • We are not extreme revolutionaries, although we do not shrink from formidable changes... We are not foes of property, but we are anxious to see property more righteously apportioned. If that is effected, property will be safer than it is.
    • Speech on land reform to a national land and housing demonstration in London (20 April 1907), quoted in The Times (22 April 1907), p. 18
  • I rise to move, "That, in order to give effect to the will of the people as expressed by their elected representatives, it is necessary that the power of the other House to alter or reject Bills passed by this House should be so restricted by law as to secure that within the limits of a single Parliament the final decision of the Commons shall prevail."
    • Speech in the House of Commons (24 June 1907)
  • The supremacy of the people in legislation implies, in this country at any rate, the authority of the Commons. The party for which I speak has never swerved from that position, and unless you are going to fall back upon some foreign method, such as the referendum or the mandate or the plebiscite, or some other way of getting behind the backs of the elected to the electors themselves, such as was advised by both the first and third Napoleon—unless that is the example you are going to follow, then there is no course open but to recognise ungrudgingly the authority which resides in this House, and to accept the views of the nation as represented in its great interests within these walls.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (24 June 1907)
  • The situation, as the House knows, has been aggravated by the part taken by the right hon. Gentleman opposite... I cannot conceive of Sir Robert Peel or Mr. Disraeli treating the House of Commons as the right hon. Gentleman has treated it. Nor do I think there is any instance in which, as leaders of the Opposition, they committed what I can only call the treachery of openly calling in the other House to override this House. [Cheers; cries of "Withdraw."] ... The right hon. Gentleman's course has, however, had one indisputable effect. It has left no room for doubt, if it had ever existed before, that the second Chamber was being utilised as a mere annexe of the Unionist Party... One begins to doubt, in fact—I certainly doubt— whether he or his Party have ever fully accepted representative institutions.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (24 June 1907)
  • Scotsmen...had played a not inglorious part in the work which they were destined to share of creating a common Empire and building up a united Britain... [T]he two countries [Scotland and England] had seen the growth of relations of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual understanding; and whoever tested the combination by its results in any field of thought or action or effort in learning, in literature, in statesmanship, in commerce, in the arts of peace or on the battlefield, must acknowledge that it had been a mighty combination, exercising a profound effect for good upon the world.
    • Speech in the Synod Hall, Edinburgh, upon receiving the freedom of the city (30 October 1907), quoted in The Times (31 October 1907), p. 6
  • I should have thought that if there was one country in the world where property was more secure than another, it was this country, because it is at heart a justice-loving country and because it is a country in which men's hearts have neither been wholly spoilt by social wrong nor wholly hardened by wealth out of all responsiveness to social obligations. Therefore, it is a country with the will and capacity to move quickly and steadily forward along the path of social reform towards a fairer and more enlightened common life, free from the disgrace of the existence of unnecessary and unmerited misery and poverty.
    • Speech to the Anchor Society's Colstan day anniversary celebration in Bristol (13 November 1907), quoted in The Times (14 November 1907), p. 6
  • If people should say of me that I tried always to go straight there is perhaps no credit to me in that. It may have been mere indolence. The straight road always seemed to me the easiest.
    • Remarks to a friend on his death bed, quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. II (1923), p. 407


  • Self-government is better than good government.
    • Widely attributed to Campbell-Bannerman since at least 1910. However it appears unattributed earlier, and the concept pre-dates Campbell-Bannerman.
    • Compare Gandhi: "Good government is no substitute for self-government." Young India (2 September 1920), p. 1

Quotes about Campbell-Bannerman

  • South Africans will always retain a grateful memory of the statesman who had the courage to carry into effect self-government for the Transvaal and Orange Free State, which paved the way to the establishment of the Union of South Africa. I deem it a grand privilege and honour to be associated with the movement in connexion with the memorial to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.
    • Louis Botha's message to the unveiling of a statue of Campbell-Bannerman in Stirling, quoted in The Times (13 November 1913), p. 10
  • A great figure, a true Liberal, and a man who knew how to brave unpopularity when his convictions required him to do so.
    • Georges Clemenceau, statement (1908), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. II (1923), p. 395
  • The first Radical premier we have ever had.
    • Corrie Grant to C. P. Scott (21 October 1906), quoted in Peter Clarke, Lancashire and the New Liberalism (1971), p. 191
  • I have a disgust for party newspaper eulogies of Ministers or coming men, but in common fairness I must say Sir Henry has earned, and fully deserves, all the praise that is heaped upon him. He seems to be mellowing with age, and really desirous of effecting some useful legislation. Of one thing I have convinced myself—that where the Liberal Party falls short of its promises, the blame will not rest with C.-B.
    • Keir Hardie, Labour Leader (4 January 1907), quoted in J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. II (1923), p. 225 and The Westminster Review, vol. 167 (1907), p. 211
  • Though our experience of him has been short, it was sufficiently long to endear him, I will venture to say, more than any other politician in this country to every member of the Labour Party... He recognised the social wrongs under which the poor are compelled to live, and he was anxious...to understand our proposals, in order that something might be done to alleviate the vast amount of suffering which the poorer of the working classes so constantly experience; and in this way his readiness sympathetically to consider the views of my colleagues and myself endeared him in an unmistakable way to every member of the Labour Party.... [W]e always rejoice to think that he maintained his position in this House and the country with a fidelity to his convictions that gave him a position in the hearts of organised workers in this country second to that of no other statesman. The loss we mourn to-day is nowhere more keenly felt than in the ranks of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
  • I think it will be felt by the community as a whole as if they had lost a relative. Certainly those who have been associated with him closely for years will feel a deep sense of personal bereavement. I have never met a great public figure since I have been in politics who so completely won the attachment and affection of the men who came into contact with him. He was not merely admired and respected; he was absolutely loved by us all. I really cannot trust myself to say more. The masses of the people of this country, especially the more unfortunate of them, have lost the best friend they ever had in the high places of the land. His sympathy in all suffering was real, deep, and unaffected. He was truly a great man—a great head and a great heart. He was absolutely the bravest man I ever met in politics. He was entirely free from fear. He was a man of supreme courage. Ireland has certainly lost one of her truest friends, and what is true of Ireland is true of every section of the community of this Empire which has a fight to maintain against powerful foes.
    • David Lloyd George's tribute to Campbell-Bannerman, quoted in The Times (23 April 1908), p. 5
  • He deserves all the credit [for the South African constitution]. It was all done in a ten minutes' speech at the Cabinet – the most dramatic, the most important ten minutes' speech ever delivered in our time. In ten minutes he brushed aside all the checks and all the safeguards devised by Asquith, Winston and Loreburn. At the outset only two of us were with him, John Burns and myself. But his speech convinced the whole Cabinet. It was the utterance of a plain, kindly, simple man. The speech moved one at least of the Cabinet to tears. It was the most impressive thing I ever saw. ... The result of CB's policy has been remarkable. It captured Gen. Botha by its magnanimity. ... If we had a war tomorrow, Botha and 50,000 Boers would march with us side by side. He would, if necessary, drive the Germans out of South Africa.
    • David Lloyd George's remarks to George Riddell, as recorded in Riddell's diary (27 April 1913), quoted in The Riddell Diaries 1908–1923, ed. J. M. McEwen (1986), p. 63
  • The Boers—the Dutch—are the rulers in S. Africa. We had to give them back their land to rule—for us! And more—for whereas they had ruled the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, they were given in addition Cape Colony and Natal to rule. Had we not done this, we should now have been driven from S. Africa. C.B. was wise enough to see that safety lay in giving them autonomy. Had we not done so, Botha and the others would have gone back to their farms, and waited for the moment—this moment—when all our energies were wanted elsewhere, to drive us from S. Africa. We didn't win the Boer War!
    • David Lloyd George's remarks to Frances Stevenson, as recorded in Stevenson's diary (25 January 1915), quoted in Frances Stevenson, Lloyd George: A Diary, ed. A. J. P. Taylor (1971), p. 25
  • [N]ow, in an assembly where he wields undisputed power, he is the most popular statesman of our generation.
    • Henry William Massingham, 'The Prime Minister', The Reader (9 March 1907), quoted in John Wilson, C.B.: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1973), p. 636
  • Is it possible that the world is over-intellectualized; and how has it profited its lost soul to be so tremendously clever? Well, 'C.B.' was not 'clever'. He was a singularly unshowy figure, standing outside society, which he hated, a wit in a quiet way, but no dazzler. He was simply an honest, uncorrupted, and singularly straight-driving man, with the half-learned, half-traditional wisdom, applied to politics, that the good shepherd directs to the tending of beasts and the watching of weather. And yet he was the only British statesman since Gladstone who visibly added to his country's power, in the act of raising her in the sphere where conscience sits and holds her all but unregarded reign.
  • A new leader was found in Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, far too sagacious and experienced a man not to be wide-awake to the formidable difficulties to which his sterling sense of public duty was exposing him. I saw him described the other day, by one with a right to an opinion, as the sincerest Liberal of our time. This may not be the best way of putting the truth, but truth it is that with no other leading Liberal of our time did diplomacy, transitory tactics, expediency of the hour, weigh lighter in the scale against principle.
  • [H]e was indispensable, the only man possible, and the time came when the popular interest in his personality rose to enviable heights, and good-will passed into cordial admiration and affection. Why? Because in many trying passages of public life he had shown unshaken courage, invincible independence even of public opinion itself, steadfast adherence to his own political principles in spite of busy and untoward dissents inside his party. In the evil days of Liberal division during the Boer War, he had confounded the dissentient wing by plain-dealing; he lost no chance of conciliation with them; and, though a ready fighter, he was a skilful peacemaker, partly for the admirable reason that, being a man of the wise sort of modesty, he always thought more of his policy, and making it prevail, than he thought of himself. It was felt that he had the root of the whole matter in him when he declared good government to be no substitute for self-government. This was his solid reply to a current word, with much cant in it, about Efficiency.
    • John Morley, Recollections, Volume II (1917), pp. 140-141
  • We Irishmen feel that he had a love for our country and our cause as though he were one of us. We had an affection for him as if he were one of our own people... We honoured him and loved him, and regret his death as one of the greatest and heaviest losses that our people and our country ever sustained.
  • It was expected that he would meet Irish wit with dull, unimaginative answers, and that he would be, so to speak, roasted alive. What turned out to be the fact was that Campbell-Bannerman had wit as ready as that of any of his opponents, that he had immense force of character; above all, that he had unfathomable, unreachable depths of imperturbability. It might have been self-confidence, it was probably indifference; but there was no human being who seemed so absolutely impervious to attack.
  • There is no doubt that C.B.'s personality and record—the man who had weathered the storm and stood unflinchingly for his principles in times when it was most difficult to proclaim them—was largely responsible for the tremendous turnover of votes [in the 1906 general election].
    • Arthur Ponsonby, notes (1920), quoted in F. W. Hirst, In the Golden Days (1947), p. 258
  • All his servants were devoted to him... He was punctual but too easy-going. He told me he had never read a Bill or a Blue Book through. But his easy-goingness had a curious side to it. Just as one imagined that he was inattentive and indifferent, ready to take the line of least resistance, or do nothing, or yield suddenly, one came up against a rock, an obstinate determination, a perfectly clear and set conviction which in time upset everyone's calculations.
    • Arthur Ponsonby, notes (1920), quoted in F. W. Hirst, In the Golden Days (1947), p. 261
  • C.-B. was canny and knew the value of tactics, but he was absolutely above aboard, open and transparently honest politically. His speeches were sound but never very inspiring. His answers to questions were often brilliantly witty and to the point. His simplicity and friendliness endeared him to many members.
    • Arthur Ponsonby, notes (1920), quoted in F. W. Hirst, In the Golden Days (1947), p. 261
  • They were extraordinarily different—Asquith outwardly strong, C.-B. outwardly easy-going; Asquith inwardly pliable, C.-B. firm and resolute; Asquith measuring men and policies by a rather arid intellectual standard, C.-B. always using a discriminating human standard.
    • Arthur Ponsonby, notes (1920), quoted in F. W. Hirst, In the Golden Days (1947), p. 262
  • His short premiership of two years will be remembered chiefly for the courage and success of his South African policy. As men often do, he rose to the level of his responsibilities. Gaining the full confidence and goodwill of his colleagues, he was able to maintain the harmony of his Cabinet. His premiership was common sense enthroned.
  • Went to lunch at the Savoy with Smuts. ... He spoke of the time after the [Boer] War when he was in England endeavouring to secure a settlement on the basis of responsible self-government. Campbell-Bannerman he said was the one man on whose support he felt he could absolutely rely. I asked about Churchill. Yes, he said, Churchill was good, but Campbell-Bannerman was like a rock. The other day he had told the Imperial War Cabinet...that whenever they were commemorating England's great men they must never forget to set up a statue to Campbell-Bannerman.
    • C. P. Scott, diary (3 May 1917), quoted in The Political Diaries of C. P. Scott, 1911–1928, ed. Trevor Wilson (1970), p. 284
  • A great man if ever there was one by force of conviction and character. How we have missed him.
  • Perhaps the man whom Gladstone most surely suggests to the mind is one who had not a tithe of his gigantic ability, but who had the great merit of having a full share of his spirit, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.
  • One day eight years later, I found myself talking over these events with General Botha, who was visiting this country as first Prime Minister of the South African Union. Just as I was leaving he stopped me for a moment and said: ‘After all, three words made peace and union in South Africa: “methods of barbarism.”’ Softening the epigram a little, he went on to speak of the tremendous impression which had been made upon men fighting a losing battle with an apparently hopeless future by the fact that the leader of one of the great English parties had had the courage to say this thing, and to brave the obloquy which it brought upon him. So far from encouraging them to a hopeless resistance, it touched their hearts and made them think seriously of the possibility of reconciliation.
    • J. A. Spender, The Life of The Right Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, G.C.B. Vol. I (1923), p. 351
  • I saw [Joseph Chamberlain]. ... He spoke a good deal of C.B. whom he described as a clever man and a brave man, and deprecated the attacks made on him by Balfour.
    • Cecil Spring Rice, letter (24 March 1908), quoted in The Letters and Friendships of Sir Cecil Spring Rice: A Record, Vol. II (1929), p. 114
  • In Opposition he had been a despised and unpopular leader; many people, including some of his own followers, doubted if he would survive for more than a few weeks as Prime Minister. But from the first days of his Premiership he progressively improved his own prestige, and displayed powers of character, tact and resource which had been latent in him; in a few months he was a very popular Leader of the House. Then he suffered a heavy blow in the death of his wife; later his own health began to fail. He was Prime Minister for too short a time to make a name to be remembered. Yet had his great chance come earlier in life, before the inevitable misfortunes of old age overtook him, he might have altered the course of political history; he might, indeed, have preserved the Liberal Party as a vital entity for another generation.
Wikipedia has an article about: