John Morley

John Morley

John Morley, the son of a doctor, was born in Blackburn on 24th December, 1838. His father, Jonathan Morley, sent John to Lincoln College, Oxford, with the belief that he intended to become a clergyman. When John changed his mind, his father refused to support him financially and he had to leave university.

Morley decided to become a journalist and managed to find work with the Saturday Review. A follower of John Stuart Mill, Morley found the journal too conservative and in 1866 was offered the post of editor of the Fortnightly Review. Morley published the work of writers of different opinions, but his own articles, revealled him to be an advanced liberal. This included support for universal suffrage and a national education system. Morley was also an agnostic and upset most of his religious readers by spelling God with a small "g".

Morley made several times to enter the House of Commons. This included failures at Preston (1867), Blackburn (1869) and the London seat of Westminster (1880). In May 1880 he was appointed editor of the crusading newspaper, the Pall Mall Gazette. As editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, Morley gave staunch support to William Gladstone and his government that had come to power following the 1880 General Election. As well as parliamentary reform, Morley was a staunch supporter of Irish Home Rule. With the help of two political allies, Joseph Chamberlain and Charles Dilke, Morley was given the safe Liberal seat of Newcastle.

After being elected to the House of Commons in 1883, Morley handed over the editorship of the Pall Mall Gazette to his able deputy, William Stead. However, he continued to edit the journal, Macmillans's Magazine, until being appointed by William Gladstone as Irish Secretary in 1885. A post he held until Gladstone was replaced as Prime Minister by the Marquess of Salisbury.

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When William Gladstone became Prime Minister in 1892, he again appointed Morley as his Irish Secretary. However, attempts to persuade Parliament to accept Irish Home Rule ended in failure. In 1899 Morley re-established his credentials as a radical when he became one of the leading opponents of the Boer War.

Morley returned to the government when Henry Cambell-Bannerman became Prime Minister in 1905. He served as Secretary for India under Cambell-Bannerman and his successor, Herbert Asquith. In 1908 Morley was raised to the peerage and as Lord President of the Council played an important role in the reform of the House of Lords. It was Viscount Morley's speech threatening to create as many new peers as was necessary, that finally persuaded the Lords to back-down in its conflict with Asquith's Liberal Government.

Morley was opposed to Britain's involvement in the First World War and along with Charles Trevelyan and John Burns, resigned from the government. In September 1915, Morley's attempts to persuade the Liberal government to accept a negotiated peace with Germany ended in failure.

Morley wrote several biographies in his lifetime including Edmund Burke (1867), Voltaire (1872), Rousseau (1876), Richard Cobden (1881) and William Gladstone (1903).

John Morley died in 1923.