JOHN BRIGHT (16 November 1811 – 27 March 1889),
He is most famous for battling the Corn Laws . In partnership with Richard Cobden , he founded the Anti-Corn Law League , aimed at abolishing the Corn Laws, which raised food prices and protected landowners' interests by levying taxes on imported wheat. The Corn Laws were repealed in 1846. Bright also worked with Cobden in another free trade initiative, the Cobden–Chevalier Treaty of 1860, promoting closer interdependence between Britain and France. This campaign was conducted in collaboration with French economist Michel Chevalier , and succeeded despite Parliament's endemic mistrust of the French.
Bright sat in the House of Commons from 1843 to 1889, promoting free trade, electoral reform and religious freedom. He was almost a lone voice in opposing the Crimean War ; he also opposed Gladstone's proposed Home Rule for Ireland . He was a spokesman for the middle class, and strongly opposed to the privileges of the landed aristocracy. In terms of Ireland, he sought to end the political privileges of Anglicans , disestablished the Church of Ireland , and began land reform that would turn land over to the Catholic peasants. He coined the phrase "Mother of Parliaments."
* 7 MP for Birmingham: 1858–89
* 7.1 Opposition to Home Rule
* 8 MLA for Kennedy, Queensland: 1869–70 * 9 Death * 10 Memorials * 11 Legacy * 12 References * 13 Bibliography
* 14 Further reading
* 14.1 Historiography
* 15 Primary sources * 16 External links
Bright was born at Greenbank,
Rochdale , in
Jacob Bright was a leader of the opposition to a local
Rochdale was also prominent in the movement for
parliamentary reform, by which the town successfully claimed to have a
member allotted to it under the
Reform Bill .
But it was as a member of the
Rochdale Juvenile Temperance Band that
Bright first learned public speaking. These young men went out into
the villages, borrowed a chair of a cottager, and spoke from it at
open-air meetings. John Bright's first extempore speech was at a
temperance meeting. Bright got his notes muddled, and broke down. The
chairman gave out a temperance song, and during the singing told
Bright to put his notes aside and say what came into his mind. Bright
obeyed, began with much hesitancy, but found his tongue and made an
excellent address. Tales of these early years circulated through
Britain and the United States late into his career, to the extent that
students at institutions such as the young
On some early occasions, however, he committed his speech to memory.
In 1832 he called on the Rev. John Aldis, an eminent
COBDEN AND THE CORN LAWS
He first met
Richard Cobden in 1836 or 1837. Cobden was an alderman
of the newly formed
Manchester Corporation , and Bright went to ask
him to speak at an education meeting in Rochdale. Cobden consented,
and at the meeting was much struck by Bright's short speech, and urged
him to speak against the
Corn Laws . His first speech on the Corn Laws
was made at
Rochdale in 1838, and in the same year he joined the
In November of the same year there was a dinner in
In 1840 he led a movement against the
Rochdale church-rate, speaking
from a tombstone in the churchyard, where it looks down on the town in
the valley below. A daughter, Helen , was born to him; but his young
wife, after a long illness, died of tuberculosis in September 1841.
Three days after her death at Leamington , Cobden called to see him.
"I was in the depths of grief", said Bright, when unveiling the statue
of his friend at
INTO PARLIAMENT: THE MEMBER FOR DURHAM
Carte de visite
Mr Ewart's motion was defeated, but the movement of which Cobden and Bright were the leaders continued to spread. In the autumn the League resolved to raise £100,000; an appeal was made to the agricultural interest by great meetings in the farming counties, and in November The Times startled the country by declaring, in a leading article, "The League is a great fact. It would be foolish, nay, rash, to deny its importance." In London great meetings were held in Covent Garden Theatre , at which William Johnson Fox was the chief orator, but Bright and Cobden were the leaders of the movement. Bright publicly deprecated the popular tendency to regard Cobden and himself as the chief movers in the agitation, and Cobden told a Rochdale audience that he always stipulated that he should speak first, and Bright should follow. His "more stately genius", as John Morley calls it, was already making him the undisputed master of the feelings of his audiences. In the House of Commons his progress was slower. Cobden's argumentative speeches were regarded more sympathetically than Bright's more rhetorical appeals, and in a debate on George Villiers 's annual motion against the Corn Laws, Bright was heard with so much impatience that he was obliged to sit down.
In the next session (1845) he moved for an inquiry into the operation
Game Laws . At a meeting of county members earlier in the day
In the autumn of 1845 Bright retained Cobden in the public career to
which Cobden had invited him four years before; Bright was in Scotland
when a letter came from Cobden announcing his determination, forced on
him by business difficulties, to retire from public work. Bright
replied that if Cobden retired the mainspring of the League was gone.
"I can in no degree take your place", he wrote. "As a second I can
fight, but there are incapacities about me, of which I am fully
conscious, which prevent my being more than second in such a work as
we have laboured in." A few days later he set off for
"FLOG A DEAD HORSE"
Main article: Flogging a dead horse
The first recorded use of the expression with its modern meaning is by Bright, referring to the Reform Bill of 1867 , which called for more democratic representation in Parliament, an issue about which Parliament was singularly apathetic. The Oxford English Dictionary cites The Globe , 1872, as the earliest verifiable use of flogging a dead horse, where someone is said to have "rehearsed that ... lively operation known as flogging a dead horse".
"ENGLAND IS THE MOTHER OF PARLIAMENTS"
Main article: The mother of parliaments (expression)
Bright coined this famous phrase on 18 January 1865 in a speech at
MARRIAGE AND MANCHESTER
Bright married firstly, on 27 November 1839, Elizabeth Priestman of
Newcastle, daughter of Jonathan Priestman and Rachel Bragg. They had
Helen Priestman Bright (b. 1840) but Elizabeth died on
10 September 1841.
Helen Priestman Bright later married William
Stephens Clark (1839–1925) of Street in
In the succeeding July 1847, Bright was elected uncontested for
In the election of 1852 Bright was again returned for
In 1860, Bright won another victory with Cobden in a new Free Trade initiative, the Cobden–Chevalier Treaty , promoting closer interdependence between Britain and France. This campaign was conducted in collaboration with French economist Michel Chevalier , and succeeded despite Parliament's endemic mistrust of the French.
MP FOR BIRMINGHAM: 1858–89
John Bright, Vanity Fair , 1869
In 1857, Bright's unpopular opposition to the
Crimean War led to his
losing his seat as member for Manchester. Within a few months, he was
elected unopposed as one of the two MPs for
On 27 October 1858, he launched his campaign for parliamentary reform
For deeply personal reasons, Bright was closely associated with the
Bright had much literary and social recognition in his later years.
In 1880 he was elected Lord Rector of the
University of Glasgow , and
R. W. Dale wrote of his rectorial address: "It was not the old
Bright." He was given an honorary degree of the University of Oxford
in 1886. He delivered the opening address for the
OPPOSITION TO HOME RULE
In 1886 when Gladstone proposed
Home Rule for Ireland and another
Irish Land Act, Bright opposed it, along with
Joseph Chamberlain and
Lord Hartington. He regarded
Charles Stuart Parnell 's Irish
Parliamentary Party as "the rebel party". Bright was repeatedly
contacted by Gladstone, Chamberlain and Hartington to solicit his
support. He was widely regarded as a force to be reckoned with and his
political influence was considerably out of proportion to his
activity. In March 1886 Bright went to London, and on 10 March met
Hartington, having an hour's talk with him on Ireland. On 12 March
Bright met Gladstone for dinner, writing that Gladstone's "chief
object is to settle the Land question which I rather think ought now
ought be considered as settled. On the question of a Parliament in
He gave me a long memorandum, historical in character, on the past
Irish story, which seemed to be somewhat one-sided, leaving out of
view the important minority and the views and feelings of the
Protestant and loyal portion of the people. He explained much of his
policy as to a
On 8 April Gladstone introduced the Home Rule Bill into the House of Commons, where it passed the first reading without division. Bright did not enter the debates on the Bill and left London at the end of April to attend the funeral of his brother-in-law. He then returned to his home in Rochdale. On 13 May Gladstone sent him a letter, requesting he visit him in London. This date was also the anniversary of the death of Bright's wife's, so he replied that he felt the need to spend it at home. He further wrote:
I cannot consent to a measure which is so offensive to the whole Protestant population of Ireland, and to the whole sentiment of the province of Ulster so far as its loyal and Protestant people are concerned. I cannot agree to exclude them from the protection of the Imperial Parliament. I would do much to clear the rebel party from Westminster, and do not sympathise with those who wish to retain them—but admit there is much force in the arguments on this point which are opposed to my views upon it. ... As to the Land Bill, if it comes to a second reading, I fear I must vote against it. It may be that my hostility to the rebel party, looking at their conduct since your Government was formed six years ago, disables me from taking an impartial view of this great question. If I could believe them honorable and truthful men, I could yield much—but I suspect that your policy of surrender to them will only place more power in their hands to war with greater effect against the unity of the 3 Kingdoms with no increase of good to the Irish people. ... Parliament is not ready for it, and the intelligence of the country is not ready for it. If it be possible, I should wish that no Division should be taken upon the Bill.
On 14 May Bright came to London and wrote to the Liberal MP Samuel Whitbread that Gladstone should withdraw the Home Rule Bill and that he should not dissolve Parliament if the Bill were put forward for a second reading and were defeated in a vote: "... it would only make the Liberal split the more serious, and make it beyond the power of healing. He would be responsible for the greatest wound the Party has received since it was a Party ... If the Bill were now withdrawn, the whole present difficulty in our Party would be gone". He also predicted the Conservatives would gain in strength if an election were called.
At the famous meeting at the Committee Room 15, Liberal MPs who were not outright opponents of the idea of Irish self-government but who disapproved of the Bill, met to decide upon a course of action. Among the attendees were Chamberlain, and Bright wrote to on 31 May:
My present intention is to vote against the Second Reading, not having spoken in the debate. I am not willing to have my view of the bill or Bills in doubt. But I am not willing to take the responsibility of advising others as to their course. If they can content themselves with abstaining from the division, I shall be glad. they will render a greater service by preventing the threatened dissolution than by compelling it ... a small majority for the Bill may be almost as good as its defeat and may save the country from the heavy sacrifice of a general election. I wish I could join you, but I cannot now change the path I have taken from the beginning of this unhappy discussion ...P.S.—If you think it of any use you may read this note to your friends.
Chamberlain read aloud this letter to the meeting and he later wrote that Bright's "announcement that he intended to vote against the Second Reading undoubtedly affected the decision" and that the meeting ended by unanimously agreeing to vote against the Bill. Bright wrote to Chamberlain on 1 June that he was surprised at the meeting's decision because his letter "was intended to make it more easy for and your friends to abstain from voting in the coming division". On 7 June the Home Rule Bill was defeated by 341 votes to 311, Bright voting against it. Gladstone dissolved Parliament.
During the subsequent general election campaign, Bright delivered
only one speech, to his constituents on 1 July, in which he opposed
Irish Home Rule. He exhorted his countrymen to put the Union above the
Liberal Party. This speech was generally viewed by the Gladstonian
Liberals as having a decisive effect on their defeat. John Morley
wrote that "The heaviest and most telling attack came from Mr. Bright,
who had up to now in public been studiously silent. Every word, as
they said of
Going through the Bill with some of them clause by clause, I was able to answer all their objections, and in many cases to get their promise of support. Mr Bright's speech, however, at once undid all my work. In the whole country it probably kept many thousands of Liberal voters from going to the polls, and did more than all the other influences put together to produce the Liberal abstention which gave the Coalition its decisive victory.
Bright was re-elected by his
From this point until his death, Bright did not meet Gladstone, despite their long political relationship together.
MLA FOR KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND: 1869–70
The Colony of
Subsequently, on 11 June 1869,
Thomas Henry Fitzgerald , member for
the electoral district of Kennedy in North Queensland, resigned,
triggering a by-election.
Let us elect a man of some weight at home, who will take our case before the Queen and try for redress. There is no man more eminently qualified for this purpose than the Honourable John Bright—a favourite with the Queen, a favourite with the nation—the representative of trade, commerce, and manufactures in the Government and the champion of liberty, and yet a loyal subject. If we can enlist his sympathies, we are right. I believe he is the man who will break the iron rod of the South and set us free; for he has already fought for the liberty of the subject, and I cannot believe he will turn a deaf ear to our manifold sorrows.
In January 1870, the separatists sent a petition to Queen Victoria
requesting that North
It is not known what role
In late 1888, Bright became seriously ill and he realised the end was near. On 27 November his son Albert wrote a letter to Gladstone in which he said his father "wishes me to write to you and tell you that "he could not forget your unvarying kindness to him and the many services you have rendered the country". He was very weak and did not seem able to say any more, and I saw the tears running down his cheeks". Gladstone replied that "I can assure you that he has been little absent of late from mine, that my feelings towards him are entirely unaltered by any of the occurrences of the last three years and that I have never felt separated from him in spirit. I heartily pray that he may enjoy the peace of God on this side the grave and on the other".
Bright received many letters and telegrams of sympathy from the Queen downwards. The Irish Nationalist MP Tim Healy wrote to Bright, wishing him a speedy recovery and "Your great services to our people can never be forgotten, for it was when Ireland had fewest friends that your voice was loudest on her side. I hope you may still be spared to raise it on her behalf according to your conceptions of what is best, for while we go on struggling for our own views, there can be nothing but regrets on our part of the sharpness of division in the past".
Bright died at his home One Ash on 27 March 1889 and was buried in the graveyard of the meeting-house of the Religious Society of Friends in Rochdale.
The Conservative Prime Minister Lord Salisbury paid tribute to him in the House of Lords the day after his death, and it sums up his character as a public man:
In the first place, he was the greatest master of English oratory that this generation has produced, or I may perhaps say several generations back. I have met men who have heard Pitt and Fox , and in whose judgment their eloquence at its best was inferior to the finest efforts of John Bright. At a time when much speaking has depressed and almost exterminated eloquence, he maintained robust and intact that powerful and vigorous style of English which gave fitting expression to the burning and noble thoughts he desired to express. Another characteristic for which I think he will be famous is the singular rectitude of his motives, the singular straightness of his career. He was a keen disputant, a keen combatant; like many eager men, he had little tolerance of opposition. But his action was never guided for a single moment by any consideration of personal or party selfishness. He was inspired by nothing but the purest patriotism and benevolence from the first beginning of his public career to the hour of its close.
In 1868, students of the new
The library at Bootham School is named in his honour.
In 1928, the Brooks-Bryce Foundation donated significant funds to the Princeton University Library for a collection of materials on the life and times of John Bright, in honour of the statesman. The Foundation also donated funds for an outdoor pulpit to be added to Princeton Chapel, also in honour of Bright.
His name is given to
* ^ Woodland, Jenny (2011).
Bootham School Register. York, England:
* ^ Taylor, pp. 229–53
* ^ Suzanne McIntire; William E. Burns (2009). Speeches in World
History. Infobase Publishing. p. 244 ff. ISBN 978-1-4381-2680-7 .
* ^ A B
Bill Cash MP (27 October 2008) "A Working Class Hero",
* Goodlad, Graham D. (1991) "Gladstone and his rivals: popular
Liberal perceptions of the party leadership in the political crisis of
1886–1886" in Eugenio F. Biagini and Alastair J. Reid (eds.),
Currents of Radicalism. Popular Radicalism, Organised Labour and Party
Politics in Britain, 1850–1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, pp. 163–83.
* Taylor, A. J. P. (1993) "
* Andrews, James R. "The rhetorical shaping of national interest:
Morality and contextual potency in John Bright's parliamentary speech
against recognition of the confederacy." Quarterly Journal of Speech
(1993) 79#1 pp: 40–60.
* Ausubel, Herman. John Bright: Victorian Reformer (1966), a
standard scholarly biography
* Baylen, Joseph O. "
* Loades, David Michael, ed. Reader's guide to British history (2003) 2: 185–86.
* John Bright, Speeches on Parliamentary Reform by John Bright, M.P., revised by Himself (1866). * John Bright, Speeches on Questions of Public Policy, ed. J. E. T. Rogers, 2 vols. (1869). * John Bright, Public Addresses, ed. by J. E. Thorold Rogers, 8vo (1879). * John Bright, Public Letters of the Right Hon. John Bright, MP., ed. by H. J. Leech (1885). * John Bright, The Diaries of John Bright, ed. R. A. J. Walling . * G. B. Smith (eds.), The Life and Speeches of the Right Hon. John Bright, M.P., 2 vols. 8vo (1881).
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bright, John". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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