John Bright, an English statesman, born at Greenbank, near Rochdale, Lancashire, Nov. 16, 1811. He is a member of the society of Friends, and head of a firm of cotton spinners and manufacturers in Rochdale. When the anti-corn-law association was formed in 1838, he entered heartily into its plans, cooperating with Mr. Cobden, and the two became the leading spirits in the league. In 1843 he was chosen member of parliament for Durham, took an active part in the measures for free trade, and had much to do with the bill of 1846 for the immediate modification of the corn laws, and their total repeal at the end of three years, or on Feb. 1, 1849. In 1847, and again in 1852, he was returned to parliament from Manchester. In 1854 he sanctioned the sending a deputation of Friends to dissuade the czar from entering upon hostilities with Turkey, and also deprecated the policy of England in taking part in the war. In 1857 his opposition to the war with China rendered him unpopular with his constituents, and he was defeated in Manchester by a large majority.
He was, however, returned for Birmingham, and vigorously urged the passage of a vote of censure against the Palmerston administration for introducing the foreign conspiracy bill, in consequence of which the ministry resigned, Feb. 20, 1858. Shortly afterward he made a speech in favor of the reduction of the British military establishment, and condemning the policy of Asiatic conquest. In 1860 he took a leading part in bringing about the commercial treaty with France. During the American civil war he was a firm friend of the Union, and supported its cause both in and out of parliament. In 1865 he entered upon the agitation in favor of the extension of the elective franchise, which finally resulted in the passage of the reform bill of Aug. 15, 1867. He also urged the necessity of reform in Ireland, and the disestablishment of the Irish church, a bill for which was introduced into the house of commons March 1, and passed July 26, 1869. At the parliamentary election of 1868 a large majority of liberals were returned; the Disraeli administration resigned Dec. 2, and in the Gladstone ministry which succeeded it Mr. Bright became president of the board of trade, being the first Quaker who ever held a seat in the British cabinet.
In consequence of the failure of his health, he resigned his seat in the cabinet Dec. 20, 1870. In 1872, having partially recovered, he resumed his place in parliament, but has not since been able to take any prominent part in public business. Mr. Bright's eloquence, energy, probity, and uniform adherence to principle, have placed him at the head of the liberal party in England. A collection of his " Speeches on Questions of Public Interest" has been published (2 vols., London, 1868).