by Stephen Tall on April 17, 2007
Jonathan Calder’s Liberal England blog recalls the peerless definition* of liberalism propounded by that last-but-three Liberal Prime Minister, Henry Campbell-Bannerman.
A good friend of mine, to whom I eulogised about this quote, sent me this antidote, an extract from Edward Rogers’ and Edmund J. Moyle’s deliciously titled, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman: His Career and Capers (London: G. Mitton, 1906):
Sample mean quote on his Commons performance:
“The majority of his speeches he writes out beforehand, even to the jokes, and reads them out with an uplifted forefinger.
If the House accepts his witticisms ‘all is well with the child’; if not, C. B. is apt to lose his temper; and sorry indeed is the spectacle then presented. With arm uplifted he will ‘Call upon Heaven and earth to witness the —.’
Then he forgets the remainder of the denunciation, and, the manuscript affording no assistance, the sentence remains forever unfinished, and the chubby hands beat a hasty retreat to the back of his corpulent figure.”
* C. B.’s quote – which can never be quoted too often – is this:
I should say it means the acknowledgment 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.