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Bright, John

Bright, John, English politician (1811-1889). His father was a cotton-spinner and manufacturer of Rochdale, at which town John Bright chiefly resided. A member of the Society of Friends, he was educated at their schools at Ackworth, Newton, and York. He first came into political prominence owing to his co-operation with Cobden in the Anti-Corn Law League and the Free Trade agitation of 1839. In July, 1843, he represented Durham in Parliament, and at once began to establish a reputation. In 1847 he was returned for Manchester, joined with Cobden in the movement for financial reform, and in 1852 aided in the reconstruction of the Anti-Corn Law League, to advance the cause of Free Trade. He also, with Cobden, was opposed to the Crimean war. Having been rejected by Manchester, in consequence of his temporary retirement through ill-health, he was returned for Birmingham in 1867, and had a hand in the overthrow of Lord Palmerston's Government. After the Indian Mutiny John Bright was in favour of transferring the Indian possessions to the Crown. In the American struggle he was an energetic and constant advocate of the North, and the Electoral Reform Act of 1867 owed much to his efforts. In 1868 he became president of the Board of Trade, but was forced by ill-health to retire in 1870. In 1873 he was again in office, and again in 1881, but in 1882 he retired from office over the Egyptian question. After that he appeared little in public, especially as he was strongly opposed to Mr. Gladstone's Irish policy. His death in 1889 caused universal regret, since not only was his eloquence greatly admired, but all parties had learned to value the moderation of his opinions in later years, and to respect the sturdy independence and sincerity of his character. As an orator he ranks high for the singular purity of his language and nervousness of style.