A Radical orator and a campaigner for free trade, peace and social reform., John Bright was among the founders of the Anti-Corn Law League in 1839, and was largely instrumental in securing the passage of the Reform Bill of 1867.
After entering Parliament in 1843, Bright, together with Richard Cobden, led the struggle there for free trade, eventually achieving success in 1846. His influence was constantly exerted on behalf of peace, as when he opposed the Crimean War, Palmerston's aggressive policy in China, Disraeli's anti-Russian policy, and the bombardment of Alexandria. During the American Civil War he was outspoken in support of the North.
He sat in Gladstone's Cabinets as President of the Board of Trade (1868-70) but broke with him over the Irish Home Rule Bill. Nor did he support Gladstone's attempts to drag the Queen out of her widowhood on the Isle of Wight. In a speech at St. James's Hall in 1866 he declared that he was 'not accustomed to stand up in defence of those who are the possessors of crowns. But I think there has been, by many persons, an injustice done to the Queen in reference to her desolate widowed position...a woman, be she the Queen of a great realm, or be she the wife of one of your labouring men, who can keep alive in her heart a great sorrow for the lost object of her life and affection is not at all likely to be wanting in a great and generous sympathy for you.'
The Queen was touched by this unexpected declaration of support by Bright, the death of whose own spouse had left him 'in the depths of grief, almost of despair.’ When Bright agreed to become President of the Board of Trade in Gladstone's Cabinet, the Queen proposed that, since he was an old man and a Quaker, he should not be required to kneel and kiss her hand at the formal ceremony of acceptance of office. Bright accordingly did not kneel, but wearing breeches he had had made especially for the occasion, he did kiss the Queen's hand, something Quakers 'in general never do', she later said proudly.
Lord Clarendon wrote to the Duchess of Manchester after a visit to 'bask in the Osborne fog of royalty' that 'Bright seems to have made a very good impression…Eliza [their code name for the Queen] spoke to me of his gentle, kind manner wh[ich] is quite true when he is in the company of ladies. The Maids of Honour made him play Blind Hookey [Blind Man's Bluff] with them and heaven knows what other traps they set for his Quaker virtue.... Eliza, so far from being afraid of Bright, has quite a predilection for him as he has several times defended her in a manner for wh[ich] she is very grateful and can never forget.'
Photographed by William and Daniel Downey of London and Newcastle.
condition: Both the print and the mount are in excellent condition.
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