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William Ewart Gladstone

(1809-1898), Prime Minister and writer

Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue Entry

Sitter associated with 321 portraits
William Gladstone served as Prime Minister four times between 1868 to 1894. Gladstone was born in Liverpool into a family who had made their fortune trading in American corn, tobacco, sugar and cotton. His father, John Gladstone owned many plantations and enslaved people in the West Indies. William Gladstone’s first speech in the House of Commons in 1833 on the emancipation of slaves in the region supported the interests of the West Indian planters and argued for better terms of reparations to the planters for emancipation. By 1850 his position had changed and he spoke against slavery. Gladstone established his political career in Robert Peel’s Conservative government 1834-35 before being politically isolated as a Liberal-Conservative. He joined the Liberal party in 1859, becoming their leader in 1857 and Prime Minister a year later. Responsible for major reforms in the justice system and civil service, he developed his own political doctrine, Gladstonian Liberalism, which promoted equality of opportunity, free trade and liberty for oppressed people. His interest in Ireland led to a proposal of home rule in 1886 that split the Liberal party and was rejected. When his second home rule bill was rejected in 1893 he resigned.

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William Ewart Gladstone

manufactured by J.C. Edwards (Ruabon) Ltd
moulded and glazed earthenware tile, circa 1897
NPG D48912c

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