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William Edward Forster

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Edward Forster

William Edward Forster - Project Gutenberg eText 13789.jpg
William Edward Forster in 1851
Chief Secretary for Ireland
In office
30 April 1880 – 6 May 1882
Prime MinisterWilliam Ewart Gladstone
Preceded byJames Lowther
Succeeded byLord Frederick Cavendish
Personal details
Born(1818-07-11)11 July 1818
Bradpole, Dorset
Died5 April 1886(1886-04-05) (aged 67)
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Jane Arnold
Alma materNone

William Edward Forster, PC, FRS (11 July 1818 – 5 April 1886) was an English industrialist, philanthropist and Liberal Party statesman. His staunch advocacy of lethal force against the Land League earned him the nickname Buckshot Forster.[1]

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  • ✪ Howards End - English Reading - Chapter 1 - E.M.Forster - ESL British English Pronunciation
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  • ✪ Basingstoke 1902 - Coronation King Edward VII - August 9th


Howards End - English Reading - Chapter 1 - E.M.Forster - ESL British English Pronunciation - Howards End by E. M. Forster Chapter 1 One may as well begin with Helen's letters to her sister. Howards End, Tuesday. Dearest Meg, It isn't going to be what we expected. It is old and little, and altogether delightful--red brick. We can scarcely pack in as it is, and the dear knows what will happen when Paul (younger son) arrives tomorrow. From hall you go right or left into dining-room or drawing-room. Hall itself is practically a room. You open another door in it, and there are the stairs going up in a sort of tunnel to the first-floor. Three bedrooms in a row there, and three attics in a row above. That isn't all the house really, but it's all that one notices--nine windows as you look up from the front garden. Then there's a very big wych-elm--to the left as you look up--leaning a little over the house, and standing on the boundary between the garden and meadow. I quite love that tree already. Also ordinary elms, oaks--no nastier than ordinary oaks--pear-trees, apple-trees, and a vine. No silver birches, though. However, I must get on to my host and hostess. I only wanted to show that it isn't the least what we expected. Why did we settle that their house would be all gables and wiggles, and their garden all gamboge-coloured paths? I believe simply because we associate them with expensive hotels--Mrs. Wilcox trailing in beautiful dresses down long corridors, Mr. Wilcox bullying porters, etc. We females are that unjust. I shall be back Saturday; will let you know train later. They are as angry as I am that you did not come too; really Tibby is too tiresome, he starts a new mortal disease every month. How could he have got hay fever in London? and even if he could, it seems hard that you should give up a visit to hear a schoolboy sneeze. Tell him that Charles Wilcox (the son who is here) has hay fever too, but he's brave, and gets quite cross when we inquire after it. Men like the Wilcoxes would do Tibby a power of good. But you won't agree, and I'd better change the subject. This long letter is because I'm writing before breakfast. Oh, the beautiful vine leaves! The house is covered with a vine. I looked out earlier, and Mrs. Wilcox was already in the garden. She evidently loves it. No wonder she sometimes looks tired. She was watching the large red poppies come out. Then she walked off the lawn to the meadow, whose corner to the right I can just see. Trail, trail, went her long dress over the sopping grass, and she came back with her hands full of the hay that was cut yesterday--I suppose for rabbits or something, as she kept on smelling it. The air here is delicious. Later on I heard the noise of croquet balls, and looked out again, and it was Charles Wilcox practising; they are keen on all games. Presently he started sneezing and had to stop. Then I hear more clicketing, and it is Mr. Wilcox practising, and then, 'a-tissue, a-tissue': he has to stop too. Then Evie comes out, and does some calisthenic exercises on a machine that is tacked on to a greengage-tree--they put everything to use--and then she says 'a-tissue,' and in she goes. And finally Mrs. Wilcox reappears, trail, trail, still smelling hay and looking at the flowers. I inflict all this on you because once you said that life is sometimes life and sometimes only a drama, and one must learn to distinguish t'other from which, and up to now I have always put that down as 'Meg's clever nonsense.' But this morning, it really does seem not life but a play, and it did amuse me enormously to watch the W's. Now Mrs. Wilcox has come in. I am going to wear [omission]. Last night Mrs. Wilcox wore an [omission], and Evie [omission]. So it isn't exactly a go-as-you-please place, and if you shut your eyes it still seems the wiggly hotel that we expected. Not if you open them. The dog-roses are too sweet. There is a great hedge of them over the lawn--magnificently tall, so that they fall down in garlands, and nice and thin at the bottom, so that you can see ducks through it and a cow. These belong to the farm, which is the only house near us. There goes the breakfast gong. Much love. Modified love to Tibby. Love to Aunt Juley; how good of her to come and keep you company, but what a bore. Burn this. Will write again Thursday. Helen Howards End, Friday. Dearest Meg, I am having a glorious time. I like them all. Mrs. Wilcox, if quieter than in Germany, is sweeter than ever, and I never saw anything like her steady unselfishness, and the best of it is that the others do not take advantage of her. They are the very happiest, jolliest family that you can imagine. I do really feel that we are making friends. The fun of it is that they think me a noodle, and say so--at least Mr. Wilcox does--and when that happens, and one doesn't mind, it's a pretty sure test, isn't it? He says the most horrid things about women's suffrage so nicely, and when I said I believed in equality he just folded his arms and gave me such a setting down as I've never had. Meg, shall we ever learn to talk less? I never felt so ashamed of myself in my life. I couldn't point to a time when men had been equal, nor even to a time when the wish to be equal had made them happier in other ways. I couldn't say a word. I had just picked up the notion that equality is good from some book--probably from poetry, or you. Anyhow, it's been knocked into pieces, and, like all people who are really strong, Mr. Wilcox did it without hurting me. On the other hand, I laugh at them for catching hay fever. We live like fighting-cocks, and Charles takes us out every day in the motor--a tomb with trees in it, a hermit's house, a wonderful road that was made by the Kings of Mercia--tennis--a cricket match--bridge--and at night we squeeze up in this lovely house. The whole clan's here now--it's like a rabbit warren. Evie is a dear. They want me to stop over Sunday--I suppose it won't matter if I do. Marvellous weather and the view's marvellous--views westward to the high ground. Thank you for your letter. Burn this. Your affectionate Helen Howards End, Sunday. Dearest, dearest Meg,--I do not know what you will say: Paul and I are in love--the younger son who only came here Wednesday. Howards End - English Reading - Chapter 1 - E.M.Forster - ESL British English Pronunciation


Early life

Born to William and Anna Forster, Quaker parents at Bradpole, near Bridport in Dorset, Forster was educated at the Quaker school at Tottenham, where his father's family had long been settled, and on leaving school he was put into business. He declined to enter a brewery and became involved in woollen manufacture in Burley-in-Wharfedale, Yorkshire. In 1850 he married Jane Martha, eldest daughter of Dr Thomas Arnold. She was not a Quaker and Forster was formally read out of meeting for marrying her, but the Friends who were commissioned to announce the sentence "shook hands and stayed to luncheon". Forster thereafter ranked himself as a member of the Church of England.

The Forsters had no natural children, but when Mrs Forster's brother, William Delafield Arnold, died in 1859, leaving four orphans, the Forsters adopted them as their own. One of the children was Hugh Oakeley Arnold-Forster, a Liberal Unionist member of parliament, who eventually became a member of Balfour's cabinet. Another was Florence Arnold-Forster, who wrote a journal about family life and politics in the 1880s.[2] The youngest child, Frances, compiled the first systematic study of English church dedications, published in 1899 as 'Studies in English Church Dedications or England's Patron Saints (London 1899)

William Forster became known as a practical philanthropist. In 1846–47, he accompanied his father to Ireland as distributor of the Friends' relief fund for the famine in Connemara, and the state of the country made a deep impression on him. He began to take an active part in public affairs by speaking and lecturing.

Political career

In 1859, Forster stood as Liberal candidate for Leeds, but lost. He was highly esteemed in the West Riding, and in 1861 was returned unopposed for Bradford. He was returned again in 1865 (unopposed) and in 1868 (at the head of the poll). He took a prominent part in parliament in the debates on the American Civil War, and in 1865 was made Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies in Lord John Russell's ministry. It was then that he first became a prominent advocate of imperial federation. In 1866, his attitude on parliamentary reform attracted attention.

William Edward Forster caricatured by "Ape" in Vanity Fair, 1859
William Edward Forster caricatured by "Ape" in Vanity Fair, 1859

Directly after the Reform Bill had passed, Forster and Edward Cardwell brought in Education Bills in 1867 and 1868. In 1868, when the Liberal party returned to office, Forster was appointed Vice-president of the Council, with the duty of preparing a government measure for national education. The Elementary Education Bill was introduced on 17 February 1870 and school boards were set up with elected representatives (for example, Charles Reed in London) the same year where possible. The religious difficulty at once came to the front. The Manchester Education Union and the National Education League/Birmingham Education League had already formulated in the provinces the two opposing theories, the former standing for the preservation of denominational interests, the latter advocating secular rate-aided education as the only means of protecting Nonconformity against the Church.

The Dissenters were not satisfied with Forster's "conscience clause" as contained in the bill, and they regarded him, the ex-Quaker, as a deserter from their own side. They resented the "25th clause", permitting school boards to pay the fees of needy children at denominational schools out of the rates, as an insidious attack on their interests. By 14 March, at the second reading, the controversy had assumed threatening proportions; and George Dixon, the Liberal member for Birmingham and chairman of the National Education League, moved an amendment, the effect of which was to prohibit all religious education in board schools. The government made its rejection a question of confidence, and the amendment was withdrawn; but the result was the insertion of the Cowper-Temple clause (which prohibited the use of distinctive religious formularies in a rate-supported school) as a compromise before the bill passed. The bill of 1870, imperfect as it was, established at last some approach to a system of national education in England.

Forster's next important work was in passing the Ballot Act 1872. In 1874, he was again returned for Bradford. In 1875, when Gladstone "retired," Forster was strongly supported for the leadership of the Liberal party, but declined to be nominated. In the same year he was elected to the Royal Society, and made Lord Rector of Aberdeen University. In 1876, when the Eastern question was looming, he visited Serbia and Turkey, and his subsequent speeches on the subject were marked by moderation. On Gladstone's return to office in 1880, he was made Chief Secretary for Ireland. He carried the Compensation for Disturbance Bill through the Commons, only to see it thrown out in the Lords. On 24 January 1881, he introduced a Coercion Bill in the House of Commons, to deal with the growth of the Land League, and in the course of his speech declared it to be "the most painful duty" he had ever had to perform. The bill passed, among its provisions being one enabling the Irish government to arrest without trial persons "reasonably suspected" of crime and conspiracy.

William Edward Forster by Henry Tanworth Wells.[3]
William Edward Forster by Henry Tanworth Wells.[3]

The Irish party used every opportunity to oppose the act, and Forster was kept constantly on the move between Dublin and London, conducting his campaign and defending it in the House of Commons.

He was nicknamed "Buckshot" by the Nationalist press, on the supposition that he had ordered its use by the police when firing on a crowd. On 13 October, Charles Stewart Parnell was arrested, and soon after the Land League was proclaimed. From that time Forster's life was in danger, and he had to be escorted by mounted police in Dublin. Several plans to murder him were frustrated by the merest accidents. On 2 May 1882, Gladstone announced that the government intended to release Parnell and his fellow-prisoners from Kilmainham Gaol, and that both Lord Cowper-Temple and Forster had in consequence resigned; on the following Saturday, Forster's successor, Lord Frederick Cavendish, was murdered in Phoenix Park, Dublin.

During the remaining years of his life, Forster's political record covered various interesting subjects, but his efforts in Ireland threw them all into shadow. He died on the eve of the introduction of the First Home Rule Bill, which he opposed. He was buried in Burley-in-Wharfedale.[4]

In popular culture

Forster is referred to as 'Buckshot' in the Irish folk song "Monto" made famous by The Dubliners and in Andy Irvine's song Forgotten Hero about Michael Davitt.


  1. ^ Doyle, Mark (2016). Communal Violence in the British Empire: Disturbing the Pax. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 143. ISBN 9781474268264.
  2. ^ Arnold-Forster, Florence, T W. Moody, R A. J. Hawkins, and Margaret Moody. Florence Arnold-Forster's Irish Journal. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988. ISBN 9780198224051.WorldCat item record 
  3. ^ National Portrait Gallery, London, accessed September 2009
  4. ^ Freeman, Sarah, ed. (23 December 2017). "A corner of Yorkshire; The Forster Memorial". The Yorkshire Post. The Magazine. p. 4. ISSN 0963-1496.


External links


There is a memorial to him in his home village of Bradpole.[1]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Titus Salt
Henry Wickham Wickham
Member of Parliament for Bradford
1861 – 1885
With: Henry Wickham Wickham 1861–1867
Matthew William Thompson 1867–1868
Henry Ripley 1868–1869
Edward Miall 1869–1874
Henry Ripley 1874–1880
Alfred Illingworth 1880–1885
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Bradford Central
Succeeded by
George Shaw-Lefevre
Political offices
Preceded by
Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Charles Adderley
Preceded by
Lord Robert Montagu
Vice-President of the Committee on Education
Succeeded by
Viscount Sandon
Preceded by
James Lowther
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
Lord Frederick Cavendish
Academic offices
Preceded by
Thomas Henry Huxley
Rector of the University of Aberdeen
Succeeded by
The Earl of Rosebery
This page was last edited on 28 December 2018, at 23:33
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