John Neilson Gladstone

MP (Conservative)


Undistinguished parliamentary career. Opposed to the wholesale repeal of the Corn Laws. See one of his rare speeches in Parliament - on the Corn Laws in 1846

Elections / Constituences

Walsall Staffordshire

Walsall election: Gladstone was opposed by J. B. Smith, leading Unitarian and candidate for the Anti-Corn Law League. Gladstone was supported by the Church of England and the Wesleyan Methodist Watchman. The ACLL claimed that it was fighting the election on the grounds of the religious and moral case for repeal. The election was also significant as the first byelection contested by the ACLL in its move to an electoral strategy for the organisation.

It was also significant for the allusions to slavery and abolition. In his election news-sheet, the Walsall Letter-Bag, Smith called on the electors to join battle against 'the whippers of negro women and the starvers of white slaves'. (Walsall Letter-Bag, 9 January 1841 cited in Paul A. Pickering and Alex Tyrrell, The People's Bread. A History of the Anti-Corn Law League (London & New York, Leicester University Press, 2000), p. 103.) There were hints too from Smith that compensation money had been used to finance the Tory campaign. (Pickering and Tyrrell, People's Bread, p. 104.)

The allusions to the starving of white workers through the bread tax were quite common in the campaign.  

For his part, Gladstone countered that his family had not been engaged in the slave trade and had been willing to bear the losses attendant upon abolition in 1833:

There had been ‘grossest misrepresentations of every kind’ about the Gladstones and slavery. ‘It was said that a near and dear relative of his own – his revered father – was deeply interested in the slave trade. He (Mr Gladstone) gave the assertion his most unqualified contradiction. His father never had an connexion with West Indian property until the termination of the slave trade . . . With regard to the compensation which he received, he  . . . would only observe that it had been much exaggerated, and that it did not by a considerable sum cover the losses which his father had sustained. But, notwithstanding, the West India proprietors did not complain. The slave trade was an unnatural sin . . . and the owners of property in the West Indies were content to take their fair share of the loss which its abolition occasioned.’ The Times, 22 January 1841.

For the Walsall election see also Norman McCord, The Anti-Corn Law League (London, Allen & Unwin, 1958), pp. 83-90 and further references in Pickering and Tyrrell, pp. 28-9, 30, 32, 98, 100, 102, 132, 234.

Ipswich Suffolk
1842 - 1847 
Devizes Wiltshire
1852 - 1857 
Devizes Wiltshire
1859 - 1863