Birthday: September 7, 1836
Died At Age: 71
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Born Country: England
Born in: Kelvinside House, Glasgow, Scotland
Famous as: Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
political ideology: Liberal
Spouse/Ex-: Charlotte, Lady Campbell-Bannerman
father: Sir James Campbell
mother: Janet Bannerman
Died on: April 22, 1908
place of death: 10 Downing Street, London, England, United Kingdom
education: The High School of Glasgow, Trinity College, University of Glasgow
awards: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was a British politician who served as the prime Minister of the United Kingdom, representing the ‘Liberal Party.’ Henry was born in Glasgow, into a highly affluent family. His father ran his own successful company. After graduating from the ‘High School of Glasgow,’ he attended the ‘University of Glasgow’ and ‘Trinity College.’ After graduating college, he began working at his father’s company. He was made a partner in the firm in 1860. In 1868, after losing the by-elections as a ‘Liberal Party’ representative, Henry won the general election that year and entered the ‘House of Commons’ from the Stirling Burghs constituency. He represented the same constituency for the next 40 years. In February 1899, he became the leader of the ‘Liberal Party’ after serving as the secretary of state for war in the ‘Liberal Party’ cabinet twice. After losing the 1900 election, the ‘Liberal Party’ returned to score a landslide victory in the 1906 elections, and Henry became the prime minister of the United Kingdom. His government took many major steps, which were considered bold, such as providing free meals for all school children and allowing the local authorities to purchase agricultural lands from private landowners. He passed away on April 22, 1908.
Childhood & Early Life
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was born on September 7, 1836, in Glasgow, Scotland, to Sir James Campbell and Janet Bannerman. His birth name was Henry Campbell. He was the youngest of the six children in the family. He grew up with four sisters and a brother.
His father was a highly reputed man and a successful cloth trader. In 1817, he started his own clothing company named ‘J. & W. Campbell & Co.,’ in partnership with his brother. James also participated in local politics and had been chosen as the member of the ‘Glasgow Town Council.’ He also represented the ‘Conservative Party’ in the general elections.
Henry’s older brother, James Jr., too, was a ‘Conservative Party’ member. He had always been against Henry’s political ideologies.
Henry graduated from the ‘High School of Glasgow’ in 1847, and following that, he joined the ‘University of Glasgow’ in 1851. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, he moved to Cambridge, England, to attend ‘Trinity College.’ At ‘Trinity,’ he obtained a degree in Classical Tripos.
By the time he graduated, he had gained an interest in politics, but as he was still in his early 20s, he decided to move back to Glasgow and work in his father’s firm. He worked there as an employee for a while, before he became a partner in 1860. While being employed at the firm, he also served as a lieutenant in the ‘Scottish Volunteer’ unit of the ‘British Army.’
In 1871, his uncle, Henry Bannerman, passed away. In his will, he had bequeathed one of his estates to Henry. However, he had also laid out the condition that Henry would have to modify his surname. Hence, since then, Henry came to be known as Henry Campbell-Bannerman.
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In 1868, at 31, he contested his first election, representing the ‘Liberal Party.’ It was a by-election for the Stirling Burghs constituency, against fellow ‘Liberal Party’ candidate John Ramsay. However, Henry lost to his opponent by a small margin.
Nevertheless, the same year, he won against Ramsay in the general elections and became the representative of Stirling Burghs in the ‘House of Commons.’ He represented the constituency for the next 40 years.
Henry was one of the most popular young members of the party, and his popularity led him to quickly climb up the ladder within the party. In 1871, he was appointed as the financial secretary to the ‘War Office.’ Over the next few years, his oratory skills made him quite popular with the party leaders. He was later appointed as the official spokesman of the party in the ‘House of Commons’ and was mostly found discussing government’s defense matters.
He became part of the cabinet in 1884, when he was appointed as the chief secretary for Ireland.
He got a big career breakthrough when he was appointed as the secretary of state for war in 1886. He remained in his position under two governments of Prime Minister William Gladstone. In this capacity, he experimented with the 8-hour-a-day work schedule at the ‘Woolwich Arsenal Munitions Factory.’ Observing its success, he applied the same plan to the ‘Army Clothing Department,’ too.
He also played a crucial part in the resignation of the Duke of Cambridge (Queen Victoria’s cousin), from his position as the commander-in-chief of the ‘British Army.’ His efforts to persuade him to resign earned Henry the honor of a ‘Knighthood.’
In 1895, Henry insisted that he be made the speaker of the ‘House of Commons,’ but the party leaders refused, as he was needed more in the lower house.
By the end of the century, the ‘Liberal Party’ had been badly divided, owing to the difference of opinions among the top-most members. The disputes were mostly due to the South African war and the differing opinions regarding it. Henry was made the leader of the ‘Liberal Party’ in 1899, to unite it again.
Henry took the middle ground at first, but by 1901, he had become quite one-sided in his approach and condemned the British methods of inhumanity in South Africa. Thus, he reunited the ‘Liberal Party’ that had lost the 1900 general elections badly. The party relied on Henry to revive its strength for the upcoming elections in 1906.
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In 1905, Prime Minister Arthur James Balfour resigned from his position. By then, Henry had formed a great friendship with King Edward VII, which turned out to be one of the key factors in Henry becoming the prime minister even when he was from the opposition party.
Henry strictly followed his party’s liberal views. His cabinet included John Elliott Burns, a person from the working class. This was the first time a working-class citizen had become a cabinet member.
The ‘Trade Disputes Act’ of 1906 was passed during his tenure. It provided the labor unions the freedom to go on strikes if their demands were not met. In the 1906 general election, the ‘Liberal Party’ won by a landslide margin.
His government passed legislations introducing free school meals for all children. He also passed an important law that allowed the local authorities to buy agricultural lands from the local private owners. Thus, he emerged as a popular and bold prime minister.
Family, Personal Life & Death
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman married Sarah Charlotte Bruce in 1860. They did not have any children.
Henry was quite close to his wife and discussed every matter with her. They stayed together until she passed away in 1906.
Henry did not like people calling him by his long name. Hence, he insisted on being addressed as “C.B.”
By 1907, his health had deteriorated. He resigned in April 1908, after having a series of heart attacks a few months earlier.
He passed away on April 22, 1908. He had resigned from his prime ministerial position only 19 days earlier. He was 71 years old at the time of his death.