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Henry Campbell-Bannerman


Henry Campbell-Bannerman
(1836—1908)

Prime Minister

"Good government could never be a substitute for government by the people themselves."

A classic Liberal, Campbell-Bannerman steered his party to its 1906 landslide in the General Election. He was a radical: he keenly supported Irish devolution and wanted to extend trade union rights and reform education. When the Lords blocked his poli­cies he laid the plans to curb their power. An opponent of the Boer War, he supported women’s suffrage and introduced the Old Age Pension.

Ministerial offices: Financial Secretary at the War Office (15 Nov 1871 - Feb 1874, 28 Apr 1880 - 10 May 1882)

Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (10 May 1882 - 23 Oct 1884)

Chief Secretary for Ireland (23 Oct 1884 - Jun 1885)

Secretary of State for War (6 Feb - Jul 1886, 18 Aug 1892 - Jun 1895)

First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Commons (5 Dec 1905 - 3 Apr 1908)

Other names/titles: born Henry Campbell; his uncle's surname, Bannerman, was added to his surname in 1871 as required by the uncle's will, who left him a life interest in his estate at Hunton; Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (from 1 Jul 1895, Knight of the Order of Bath)

Henry Campbell was born in the family of a Scottish businessman and politician. He studied at Glasgow University and Trinity College, Cambridge, receiving his degree in 1858. After his graduation, Campbell joined the family firm, J. & W. Campbell, warehousemen and drapers in Glasgow. In 1868 he was returned as Liberal MP at the General Election (MP, 1868-1908). Campbell-Bannerman served as a middle ranking minister in the War Office but his performance in Parliament was not distinguished. In 1884 he was made Chief Secretary for Ireland (1884-1885) in the Cabinet of William Gladstone and later served as Secretary of State for War (1886, 1892-1895) in the third and fourth governments of Gladstone. He continued in office after Gladstone's resignation in 1894 and was elected as Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons on 6 Feb 1899.

After the resignation of Arthur James Balfour, Campbell-Bannerman was appointed (5 Dec 1905) First Lord of the Treasury and formed a Liberal government. On 10 Dec 1905 a Royal Warrant placed the Prime Minister, in the first official use of that title for the office, in the order of precedence in England immediately after the Archbishop of York. The 1906 General Election was the landslide victory for the Liberal Party (Liberal 399, Conservative 156, Irish Nationalist 82, Labour 29, others 4). Campbell-Bannerman pursued a liberal agenda, denouncing British 'barbarism' in the conduct of the Boer war. He gained self-government for the Transvaal (1906) and the Orange River Colony (1907). At home he obtained approval of the Trade Disputes Act (1906), which gave labor unions considerable freedom to strike, and welcomed the first generation of Labour members. He favored local control of education and women's suffrage and sought to improve the physical environment of the poor especially in the growing cities. He was able to dominate the House of Commons, but age and health were against him. He suffered heart attacks in June 1907 and in April 1908, when he had to resign (5 Apr 1908). He died at 10 Downing Street, London, on 22 Apr 1908.

Source: text: "Facts About the British Prime Ministers," pp. 223-228;