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John Bright MP (1811-1889)

 John Bright MP

John Bright (1811-1889) was MP for Manchester from 1843-1857, but lost his seat there when he became unpopular for opposing the Crimean War.

Within a few months, he became one of Birmingham's two MPs, being elected unopposed. He was an MP for Birmingham for more than thirty years. For most of his career he was unaligned, having no connection with any particular political party.

He was a Quaker, and campaigned against the power and wealth of the established church, and of the aristocracy.

Throughout his life he campaigned for causes which would improve the lives of working people; locally, nationally, and worldwide.

He campaigned:

  • against the Corn Laws, which made corn, and therefore bread, expensive.
  • for the disestablishment of the English State Church in Ireland; and for the reform of the land system by the creation of a farmer proprietary in Ireland.
  • for less-authoritarian British rule in India both before and after the Indian Mutiny (1857)
  • In the American Civil War he supported the north in the fight against slavery.
  • He led the movement for Parliamentary reform, to extend the franchise, and to increase the number of MPs for newer boroughs, for example Birmingham, from the 1850s through to the 1880s.
  • He seconded the motion against the Conspiracy Bill that led to the fall of Palmerston's government.

He was originally against women's suffrage, but later changed his mind.

In 1882, he delivered the opening address for the second Birmingham Central Library.

John Bright Street, near the Alexander Theatre, is named in his honour.

He was also renowned as a great orator.

The Archives, Heritage and Photography section of the Library of Birmingham has several books about him and reports about meetings he attended and speeches he made.