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Bright, John

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John Bright (16 November 1811 – 27 March 1889), Quaker, was a British Radical and Liberal statesman, associated with Richard Cobden in the formation of the Anti-Corn Law League. He was one of the greatest orators of his generation, and a strong critic of British foreign policy. He sat in the House of Commons from 1843 to 1889. Autograph Slip Writing Signed, 4 1/8 x 2 1/4 - 'Friday June 23' parctial document saved. Written in blk ink with browning noted overall fine condition.

* It was a common practice for political administrative personal to cut off the document and send the signed name to a friend or business acquaintance as a moment.

"John Bright (16 November 1811 - 27 March 1889), Quaker, was a British Radical and Liberal statesman, associated with Richard Cobden in the formation of the Anti-Corn Law League. He was one of the greatest orators of his generation, and a strong critic of British foreign policy. He sat in the House of Commons from 1843 to 1889.

In the same spirit he became a founder-member of the Anti-Corn Law League, which fought for lower grain prices, and by 1841 he had emerged as the chief supporting speaker to Richard Cobden, the leader of the league. For five years, until repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, Cobden and Bright spoke frequently together from platforms throughout the country. Cobden's speeches provided persuasive arguments; Bright concentrated upon denouncing the privileged political position of the agricultural landlords, which had enabled them to use Parliament to pass the Corn Laws. Although Cobden had taught Bright the high moral and economic case for free trade, Bright tended to speak in narrower terms on behalf of the manufacturers and mill hands, who (he insisted to the latter) shared a common interest in overturning the Corn Laws.

Bright became a member of Parliament for Durham in 1843 and for Manchester in 1847. In 1839 he had married a fellow Quaker, Elizabeth Priestman; but she died of consumption in September 1841, leaving Bright with one daughter. In later life he liked to tell an emotional story of how Cobden visited him after his bereavement and how the two friends made a compact together to crusade against the Corn Laws. Bright's old-age recollections, however, tended to be unconsciously self-inflating, sacrificing accuracy for effect. In reality, he had begun to work closely with Cobden well before his wife's death. He also deeply disliked being opposed, even by Cobden. This was an unfortunate product of his sensitive nature, and he often expressed his disappointment with a brusqueness that hurt the feelings of others.

During the second half of 1866 Bright suddenly found himself the hero and chief mouthpiece of the reformers, accepted alike by those who demanded universal suffrage and those who wanted more limited reform. In terms of immediate influence this was the high point of his career. Paradoxically, his position was strengthened by the uncertainty of his own precise preference-he had always left details and close logic to Cobden, who died in 1865. But Bright was well-satisfied with the household franchise introduced by the 1867 Reform Act, which extended the vote to skilled urban artisans but still excluded the town and country labourers. He was impressed by the artisans’ intelligence and independence, and he recommended every man who wanted the vote to acquire these qualities. The Brights were benevolent employers, but this same faith in self-help and independence placed Bright at the head of those manufacturers who opposed factory legislation, trade unions, and social reform. This was the negative side of his belief in equality. Its positive side led him strongly to support the North against the slave-owning South during the American Civil War (1861-65) and to press both before and after the Indian Mutiny (1857) for less-authoritarian British rule in India.

He entered William Gladstone's Cabinet as president of the Board of Trade in 1868, but another breakdown forced his resignation in 1870. Although he served twice more in Gladstone cabinets (1873-74, 1880-82), the rest of his career was but an epilogue. His radicalism no longer seemed dangerous, allowing him during the last 20 years of his life to be widely accepted (as the economist and journalist Walter Bagehot remarked) as "a great institution." He helped to shape Gladstone's Irish land reforms of 1870 and 1881, but his pugnacious streak (always strong, even in the cause of peace) led him in 1886 to reject Gladstone's lead in proposing Irish Home Rule. Bright announced that he was not prepared to see power given to Irish nationalists who had made a mockery of parliamentary government. Bright was greatly admired and venerated in old age, but historians subsequently tended toward a more critical view of his personality and achievement."