Charles Gilpin (politician)

Charles Gilpin
Charles Gilpin by Elliott & Fry 1860s.jpg
Gilpin by Elliott & Fry
Member of the United Kingdom Parliament
for Northampton
In office
Serving with
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Parliamentary Secretary to the Poor Law Board
In office
Preceded by Frederick Knight
Succeeded by George Byng
Personal details
Born (1815-03-31)31 March 1815
Bristol, England
Died 8 September 1874(1874-09-08) (aged 59)
10 Bedford Square, London, England
Resting place Friends Burial Ground, Winchmore Hill, London, England
Political party Liberal (1859โ€“1874)
Other political
Whig (1857โ€“1859)
Education Sidcot School

Charles Gilpin (31 March 1815 โ€“ 8 September 1874) was a Quaker, orator, politician, publisher and railway director. Amongst his many causes were the movement to repeal the Corn Laws, to establish world peace through the Peace Society, abolition of the death penalty[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] and the anti-slavery movement, enfranchisement by providing freehold land for purchase, liberation of Hungary from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Hungarian exiles in England, the Poor Law and prison reform, Foreign relations . . . "a thorough liberal" (Biographical Catalogue)[8]

Parents and education

He was born at Bristol on 31 March 1815, eldest of six surviving sons (there were seven daughters) of James Gilpin (1780โ€“1855) and Mary Gilpin (born Sturge, 1789โ€“1842), a sister of Joseph and Edmund Sturge.

He was educated at Sidcot School from 1824 to 1828.[9] At the age of 13, he organised a mock trial, "with great ability".[10]

His first job was as a traveller for a Manchester warehouse. During this period he came under the influence of the liberal views of his uncle Joseph and Richard Cobden. By way of their opposition to the Corn Laws, Gilpin received a training in public speaking so successful that "before he was five-and-twenty, his services were widely sought in favour of many great public movements of the time" (Times obituary).[11]

Marriage and children

He married Anna Crouch (1811โ€“1892),[12] daughter of William Crouch (1768?โ€“1854) of Falmouth, accountant, and Lucretia Crouch (born Anson, 1777โ€“1858).

The number, gender and lives of their children is unclear:

  • A daughter called Anna was born 1 December 1840,[13] married on 21 September 1872 to Richard Pigott[14] and was a beneficiary of Gilpin's Will.
  • A biographical entry in Sidcot School: The Register of Old Scholars says Charles Gilpin married Anna Crouch c.1839 at Falmouth and had children named Anne, Louis and Charles.[9]
  • Milligan's Biographical Dictionary . . .[15] says there were two sons and two daughters of the marriage.
  • An obituary of Charles Gilpin says that an only son died, after a long illness, the sorrow of this loss leading to Gilpin's own death in 1874.[16]

Publishing and book-selling

In 1842, Charles Gilpin moved to London and took over the stock of the bookseller's and publisher's business of Edward Fry (1783โ€“1841) moving it from Houndsditch to No. 5, Bishopsgate Street Without in the City of London. The business was successful but in 1853,[17] he retired to develop his other business, philanthropic and political interests.

Range of publications

The British Library Integrated Catalogue lists 76 titles printed by Charles Gilpin, including works by Elihu Burritt, Henry Clarke Wright, Jonathan Dymond, Pestalozzi, George William Alexander, Thomas Clarkson, Gyรถrgy Klapka, William Wells Brown,[18] George Copway and Giuseppe Mazzini.

He also published a large number of memoirs of the lives of Quakers, including those of Elizabeth Fry and William Allen. He published the Scriptural verse of Lovell Squire, his wife's sister's husband. He published Aunt Janeโ€™s Verses, for Children ... Illustrated in 1851: Aunt Jane was Jane Crewdson.

Gilpin published at least two books on the subject of water cure or hydropathy. One, by E.S. Abdy was translated from German,[19] the other was on the waters of Ben Rhydding in West Yorkshire.[20]

He published at least two books by the prison reformer Alexander Maconochie.

He published the Proceedings of the second (Paris, 1849) and third (Frankfurt-am-Main, 1850) International Peace Congresses.[21][22]

The Friend

In 1842, at the request of a weighty Quaker board,[23] he launched and published The Friend, an open-minded evangelical Quaker magazine. The first issue was dated "First-month 1843", under the editorship of Charles Tylor. In 1849, Gilpin purchased the publication from the board and was its editor from 1852 until 1857. The magazine is still in publication.

Political elections and roles

The Court of Common Council

Gilpin was elected to The Court of Common Council of the City of London in 1848.[24] He was largely instrumental in the abolition of street tolls.[15]

Perth by-election, 1852

Since 1841, the Perth constituency had been represented in Parliament by Fox Maule, the heir apparent of his father, Baron Panmure. He was Secretary at War from July 1846 to January 1852, when for two or three weeks he was President of the Board of Control (overseeing the British East India Company). In April 1852,[25] he succeeded his father as 2nd Baron Panmure.

Fox Maule's appointment to the Board of Control necessitated a by-election.[26] Gilpin challenged him, supported by local reformers and a meeting to nominate the candidate was held on Monday 9 February 1852. Maule defended his record in Parliament and in Office, "amidst mingled cheers and hisses".

Mr. Gilpin was also greeted by cheers and hisses and stated that 150 to 200 electors had invited him to stand as "the Rt Hon Gentleman had not fulfilled his profession of reform". Maule had justified the continuation of the Government Grant to the Catholic Maynooth College. Gilpin said he was against all state funding of religion and would vote against the continuation of the grant.

However, when Mr. Maule demanded a poll, despite a show of hands in Gilpin's favour, Gilpin withdrew and Maule was declared returned.

Maule's elevation to the House of Lords on the death of his father on 13 April 1852 caused a further by-election in Perth. However, he had already offered to stand for the Forfar constituency.[25]

The liberal contestants for Perth were Charles Gilpin and Hon. Arthur Kinnaird and their supporters were almost equally divided between the two candidates. Through the Conservative vote, Gilpin lost to Kinnaird (325 against 225 votes).[27] Gilpin did not stand for Parliament at the July 1852 General Election.

MP for Northampton

Gilpin as portrayed by Melchiorre Delfico in Vanity Fair, 18 January 1873. It is captioned "Capital Punishment"

At the general elections 1857, 1859, 1865 and February 1874, Gilpin was elected to represent the Northampton constituency[28][29][30][31]

Conspiracy to Murder Bill and atrocities in India

Gilpin opposed the Conspiracy to Murder Bill of 1858, drafted in response to the attempted assassination of Napoleon III on 4 January 1858. The plot was hatched in England. The bill sought to increase the penalty for conspiring to murder persons abroad from a misdemeanour to a felony.[32][33] The failure of the bill led to Palmerston's resignation as Prime Minister and the general election of 1859.

He also strongly condemned the massacre during the Indian rebellion of 1857 of hundreds of disarmed Indian sepoys at Ajnala in Punjab on the orders of Frederick Henry Cooper, the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar, declaring "one such atrocity as this would do more to excite burning hatred to our power and to our faith, everything multiplied a hundred fold, than the missionaries could eradicate in the next century".[34]

Role in Government

In view of his opposition[35] to the Conspiracy bill, it is surprising that Palmerston offered Gilpin a job in his 1859 Government and that Gilpin accepted, having negotiated that he would not be bound by the party whip. The job was Secretary of the Poor Law Board. This appointment did not please his fellow Quaker, John Bright MP, who remarked "Thou'd better have a rope put around your neck".[10] Gilpin served until 1865.[36]

Beyond publishing and Parliament


He was a director of the South Eastern, the Metropolitan,[37] and the Smyrna & Cassaba Railways.[38]

He was chairman of the National Freehold Company, Moorgate and the British Land Company from its establishment in 1857 until 1873[39] and a director of the National Provident Life Assurance Company.[15][40][41]

Charles Gilpin's home at 10, Bedford Square, London


Gilpin was a friend and supporter of Lajos or Louis Kossuth, the Hungarian Nationalist.[42][43][44][45][46] "His London residence, was the English home of Louis Kossuth and Garibaldi".[9]

As a Quaker

His obituary in The Friend says: "As a Friend, he took a warm interest in the welfare of the Society. His clear voice was often heard at Yearly Meeting [the annual gathering of British Quakers] . . . our Friend's sphere of action often seemed more political than religious, but we believe the motive power that influenced him was his acceptance of Christianity as a spiritual reality . . . intended for all men".[47] In 1855, he was a member of the Committee of the Friends Temperance Union.[48]

Death and legacy

Charles Gilpin

After a period of illness, he died at his home, 10 Bedford Square, London[49][50] on 8 September 1874. More than 1,000 people attended his funeral at the Friends Burial Ground, Winchmore Hill.[51] His will left everything to his wife (except 50 guineas to several persons), and after her death, to their daughter, Mrs Anna Crouch Pigott.[52]

At the by-election, following his death, Charles George Merewether (Conservative) was elected for the Northampton Constituency, which Gilpin had represented for seventeen years.[53]

The last executions in the United Kingdom, by hanging, took place in 1964. Although not applied since, the death penalty remained on the statute book for certain other offences until 1998.

In 1968, Duke University bought a large quantity of Charles Gilpin's papers, which are now carefully catalogued and available to scholars.[24]


Main Sources

  • Obituary in The Times, 9 September 1874, p. 7; issue 28103, Column F: "The late Charles Gilpin M.P."
  • Edward H Milligan Biographical dictionary of British Quakers in commerce and industry, 1775โ€“1920, Sessions of York (2007) ISBN 978-1-85072-367-7.
  • "Guide to the Charles Gilpin Papers". Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  • Biographical catalogue of the Friends Institute (1888) pp. 279โ€“280: "Charles Gilpin, MP Born 1815-Died 1874 โ€“ aged 59 years", quoting Illustrated London News 12 September 1874 and 19 September 1874.


  1. ^ The Manchester Guardian; 15 January 1848; Gilpin addresses a public meeting against capital punishment in Liverpool.
  2. ^ The Times, Wednesday, 21 November 1849; p. 5; Issue 20339; col D: Letter to the Editor, against Capital Punishment.
  3. ^ On 3 May 1864, Gilpin supported William Ewart's Commons resolution requesting a Select Committee be appointed to consider PUNISHMENT OF DEATH:Hansard HC Deb 3 May 1864 vol 174 cc2055-115
  4. ^ Hansard report of Commons Sitting: CAPITAL PUNISHMENT WITHIN PRISONS BILLโ€” [BILL 36.] COMMITTEE stage: HC Deb 21 April 1868 vol 191 cc1033-63
  5. ^ Editorial in The Times, critical of Gilpin's abolitionist amendment and his presentation of the case for abolition The Times, Wednesday, 22 April 1868; p. 8; Issue 26105; col E .
  6. ^ The Observer; 27 March 1869; "Parliamentary business after Easter" (Gilpin hopes to introduce a bill to abolish Capital Punishment).
  7. ^ Mr. Charles Gilpin, Mr. Robert Fowler, Mr. McLaren, Sir John Gray introduced a CAPITAL PUNISHMENT ABOLITION BILLโ€” [BILL 32.] The debate is reported in Hansard (Commons) 24 July 1872, vol 212.
  8. ^ Biographical catalogue of the Friends Institute pp. 279โ€“280.
  9. ^ a b c Sidcot School: The Register of Old Scholars by Kathleen and Chris Hall, Sidcot School (2001), p. 20: 1815: Charles Gilpin
  10. ^ a b Review "In the Heart of the Mendips" of A Sidcot Pageant by Evelyn Roberts by A Neave Brayshaw in The Friend, 14 June 1935, p. 553, col.2
  11. ^ Obituary in The Times, 9 September 1874, p. 7; issue 28103, Column F
  12. ^ Marriage register of Falmouth Friends Meeting, as transcribed by Louise Haywood
  13. ^ Birth of Anna Gilpin (later Pigott) on 1 December 1840, in Montpellier, Bristol in the Digest Register of London & Middlesex Quarterly Meeting 1837โ€“1959 (microfilm) at Friends House Library. No other children of Charles and Anna Gilpin were recorded in this Register, after this date.
  14. ^ Note of marriage of Gilpin's daughter, Anna to Richard Pigott -The Observer, 29 September 1872 p. 8.
  15. ^ a b c Milligan's Biographical Dictionary .... See Sources above for bibliographical details.
  16. ^ Obituary of Charles Gilpin in The British Friend, Vol.32 (1874), p. 306.
  17. ^ The Times, Friday, 14 January 1853; p. 11; Issue 21325; col C: contains a number of advertisements for books, on sale at W. and F.G. Cash (Successors to C. Gilpin) at 5 Bishopsgate without.
  18. ^ Narrative of William W. Brown, an American Slave โ€“ full text.
  19. ^ Abdy, E.S (1842). "The Water Cure: Cases of disease cured by cold water". translated from the German. London: Charles Gilpin. Retrieved 13 December 2009.
  20. ^ John Pringle Nichol Yorkshire Memorials from Ben Rhydding,1852.
  21. ^ Peace Congress, 2d, Paris, 1849. Report of the proceedings of the second general Peace Congress, held in Paris on the 22nd, 23rd, and 24 August 1849. Compiled from authentic documents under the superintendence of the Peace Congress Committee. London, Charles Gilpin, 1849. Available at GoogleBooks.
  22. ^ The Proceedings of the 1850 Congress were published by Charles Gilpin and are available online through GoogleBooks
  23. ^ The Friend 11 October 1929 Vol.69 No. 41, pp. 897โ€“899: Editorial-"Then and Now", 901โ€“908,915 "The Friend and the men who made it". The board were John Hodgkin, Josiah Forster and George Stacey.
  24. ^ a b Guide to the Charles Gilpin Collection, Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.
  25. ^ a b The Times, Friday, 16 April 1852; p. 8; Issue 21091; col D: "Death of Lord Panmure"
  26. ^ The Times, Wednesday 11 February 1852, p. 8, Column C: "Perth election"
  27. ^ The Times, Saturday, 15 May 1852; p. 8; Issue 21116; col D: "Election Intelligence" (Perth results received by Electric Telegraph).
  28. ^ The Times, Wednesday, 18 March 1857; p. 9; Issue 22631; col C: "Election Intelligence". [1857: Gilpin selected at a meeting of Liberal electors, with an extract from his Address]
  29. ^ Manchester Guardian; 4 June 1859; "Parliamentary Proceedings 3 June" โ€“ Newly Elected MPs sworn in โ€“ John Bright and Charles Gilpin affirm.
  30. ^ Charles Gilpin should not be confused with Richard Gilpin (1801โ€“1882), usually referred to as "Colonel Gilpin", who represented the Bedfordshire Constituency, 24 February 1851 โ€“ 31 March 1880
  31. ^ Gilpin's electoral results (SOURCE: Emlyn Warren's database at Friends House Library)
    • Perth 1852: votes 225 = 40%, 2nd of 2 candidates โ€“ not elected
    • Northampton
      • 1857 1011 votes 52.1 % 2nd of 3, Elected
      • 1859 (by-election) 1151 votes 73% 1st of 4, Elected
      • 1865 1250 votes 55.8% 2nd of 4, Elected
      • 1868 2691 votes 56.9% 1st of 6, Elected
      • 1874 (Feb) 2310 votes 43.9%, 2nd of 5, Elected
  32. ^ Some historical background to this incident is given in โ€œNapoleon III, Palmerston and the Entente Cordiale:Roman Golicz explores relations between Britain and France under Pam's 'liberal' foreign policy during the Second Empireโ€ Archived 7 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ Steele, E.D (1991). Palmerston and liberalism, 1855โ€“1865. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-40045-7.
  34. ^ Commons debates March 14 1859
  35. ^ Hansard does not record a Commons speech by Gilpin, however
  36. ^ The Manchester Guardian; 24 February 1865; p. 3: "Court and Official announcements" โ€“ Speculation on his reasons for resigning.
  37. ^ The Times, Friday, 30 August 1872; p. 4; Issue 27469; col C: Metropolitan Railway (long letter, responding to criticism of the governance of the Company). and Monday, 2 September 1872; p. 4; Issue 27471; col E.
  38. ^ The Observer; 9 May 1858; Advertisement offering shares in the Asia Minor Central Railway Company, Charles Gilpin MP, was a Director, described as a Director of the South Eastern Railway
  39. ^ British Land Company Annual Reports in .pdf format) Archived 14 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ National Provident Life Assurance Company Archived 7 June 2004 at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ Manchester Guardian 9 September 1874; "Death of Mr. Charles Gilpin"
  42. ^ The Observer; 26 May 1851; Gilpin asks the Court of Common Council to send an address to Lord Palmerston (Foreign Secretary), concerning Kossuth.
  43. ^ The Times, Saturday, 24 May 1851; p. 7; Issue 20810; col C: To The Editor of the Times (concerning Kossuth).
  44. ^ The Observer; 26 October 1851; Kossuth arrives at Southampton
  45. ^ The Observer; 3 November 1851; Kossuth in England.
  46. ^ The Times, Wednesday, 25 February 1874; p. 12; Issue 27935; col C: Louis Kossuth (his current wellbeing).
  47. ^ Charles Gilpin's obituary in The Friend, 1 October 1874, p. 308.
  48. ^ "Friends Temperance Union 6th AGM ticket, listing Committee members, illustrated in an online guide to the history of Quakers and the Temperance movement". Archived from the original on 10 August 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  49. ^ 10, Bedford Square is the address of his letter to the Editor of The Times, Tuesday, 26 October 1858; p. 4; Issue 23134; col E. Letters before that date are from 5, Bishopsgate without.
  50. ^ Description of Gilpin's residence at 10 Bedford Square in Riley & Gomme's Survey of London (1914).
  51. ^ The Observer 20 September 1874; "Home news"
  52. ^ The Observer 18 October 1874; "Wills and Bequests"
  53. ^ The Times, Thursday, 8 October 1874; p. 10; Issue 28128; col E: "The Northampton Election"

Further reading

  • Harry Potter Hanging in judgement : religion and the death penalty in England from the bloody code to abolition; London : SCM Press, 1993 ISBN 0-334-02533-8
  • "Friends & capital punishment" by Charles R. Simpson. โ€“ In: Friends' quarterly examiner; Vol.57; no.227 (Fourth Month 1923), p. 169โ€“177

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Raikes Currie
Robert Vernon
Member of Parliament for Northampton
1857 โ€“ 1874
With: Robert Vernon to 1859
The Lord Henley 1859 โ€“ Feb. 1874
Pickering Phipps from Feb. 1874
Succeeded by
Charles Merewether
Pickering Phipps
Political offices
Preceded by
Frederick Knight
Parliamentary Secretary to the Poor Law Board
Succeeded by
George Byng

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