Henry Campbell-Bannerman

Henry Campbell-Bannerman

Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the son of the Lord Provost of Glasgow, was born in 1836. After being educated at Glasgow High School and Trinity College, Cambridge, he joined the family drapery business.

In the 1868 General Election Campbell-Bannerman was elected as Liberal MP for Stirling. After the 1884 General Election the Prime Minister, William Gladstone, appointed Campbell-Bannerman as his Chief Secretary for Ireland, but he did not enter the Cabinet until he became War Secretary in 1886.

Campbell-Bannerman was not a very good parliamentary orator but had a reputation as an efficient political operator and in 1898 became leader of the House of Commons. Campbell-Bannerman opposed the Boer War and advocated comprehensive social reforms and in doing so established himself as one of the most important figures on the progressive wing of the party.

When Arthur Balfour and his Conservative government resigned in 1905, Edward VII invited Campbell-Bannerman to form a government. He accepted and in the 1906 General Election that followed the Liberal Party had a landslide victory. Important legislation passed during the first few months of office included the Trades Disputes Act and the Provision of School Meals Act.

Henry Campbell-Bannerman became very ill and on 4th April 1908 he was forced to resign and died eighteen days later.

Primary Sources

(1) George Lansbury, Looking Backwards and Forwards (1935)

Campbell-Bannerman was kindness itself. I often wonder what the developments in English politics would have been had this genial, kindly Scotsman lived. There might have been no war in 1914; the course of the Labour Movement might have been different - for this man believed in peace and was not afraid of the word Socialism, and did believe unemployment was a national problem and the unemployed the care of the State.

(2) J. R. Clynes, Memoirs (1937)

Campbell-Bannerman was a remarkable man. Appointed as Liberal leader when the Party fortunes had almost vanished, he built them up again by calm, patient, indomitable work, until his gentle and unflinching courage had its reward in a sweeping Liberal victory. He was deeply sensitive, a passionate lover of peace, a man of wide outlook and great understanding. He was nit a brilliant orator, but the House always listened to him with respect and sympathy, simply because of his quiet sincerity.