Edward Baines (1800–1890)

Sir Edward Baines (28 May 1800 – 2 March 1890), also known as Edward Baines Jr, was a nonconformist English newspaper editor and Member of Parliament (MP).

Sir Edward Baines
Sir Edward Baines.jpg
Sir Edward Baines, c.1870
Born28 May 1800
Leeds, England
Died2 March 1890
Leeds, England
OccupationJournalist, politician
Known forVoluntarism
Political partyLiberal
Martha Blackburn
(m. 1829)
ChildrenThomas Blackburn Baines (1832–1891)
Parent(s)Edward Baines
Charlotte Baines née Talbot
RelativesSon-in-law, Rev. Eustace Conder (1820–1892)


Edward Baines, of St Ann's Hill, Leeds, was the second son (and biographer) of Edward Baines (1774–1848), proprietor of the Leeds Mercury and MP for Leeds in the 1830s, and his wife Charlotte Talbot. His elder brother, Matthew Talbot Baines, was also a politician.

Edward Baines junior was educated at a Leeds private school and then at a dissenting academy – the Leaf Square grammar school at Pendleton, near Manchester,[1] alongside his lifelong friend John Peele Clapham.[2] From 1815 he worked as a journalist on the Leeds Mercury (in which capacity he was an eye-witness of the Peterloo massacre), becoming a junior editor c 1820 and a partner in the business in 1827. He became sole editor when his father was elected to Parliament in 1834, and, after his father's death in 1848, proprietor of the Leeds Mercury. He served as Liberal MP for Leeds from 1859 to 1874. He was knighted in 1880.

A political Liberal, he supported the 1832 Reform Act and the 1834 new poor laws; he was an advocate of repeal of the corn laws and of the separation of church and state. He was an opponent of the factory reform movement and responsible for the Mercury's rejection of Richard Oastler's letters to it on the subject. A staunch Dissenter, he opposed state-sponsored education (because it was unthinkable that education should be purely secular, but also unconscionable that the state should have any involvement with religious instruction).

In 1843 he wrote in the Mercury that education was something individuals could do for themselves "under the guidance of natural instinct and self-interest, infinitely better than Government could do for them".[3] Hence "All Government interference to COMPEL Education is wrong" and had unacceptable implications: "If Government has a right to compel Education, it has right to compel RELIGION !"[3] He withdrew his opposition in the 1860s, when he reluctantly conceded the inadequacy of efforts for the voluntary provision of education. In the 1860s he repeatedly introduced bills to widen the franchise; all were defeated.[1]

Baines helped to found the Leeds Literary and Philosophical Society. He was also a prominent advocate of working-class adult education, founding Yorkshire Mechanics' Institutes in imitation of George Birkbeck's London mechanics' institute. Contributions of his on the cotton industry to his father's History of Lancashire were praised by reviewers; at their suggestion his History of the Cotton Manufacture was published separately with much additional material (1835). He celebrated the natural position and the political advantages of English commerce and manufacturing districts, and especially of the English navy which "held the sovereignty of the ocean, and under its protection the commerce of this country extended beyond all former bounds, and established a firm connexion between the manufacturers of Lancashire and their customers in the most distant lands."[4]

Baines also wrote a number of more polemical works; e.g. criticisms of Owenism. In 1840 he attended the World's Anti-Slavery Convention where he was captured in a group painting.[5]

He married Martha Blackburn in 1829.

Baines died on 2 March 1890 in Leeds, and was interred in the family vault at Woodhouse Cemetery.


  • Baines, Edward (1834). A companion to the Lakes of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire : in a descriptive account of a family tour and excursions on horseback and on foot : with a new, copious, and correct itinerary (3 ed.). Simpkin and Marshall.
  • Baines, Edward (1835). History of the Cotton Manufacture. H. Fisher, R. Fisher, P. Jackson.
  • Baines, Edward (1843). The Social, Educational and Religious State of the Manufacturing Districts (3 ed.). Simpkin, Marshall & Co.; T. Ward & Co.
  • Baines, Edward (1840). The Socialists, A Society of Beasts, Important and interesting Proposal addressed to Robert Owen Esq.
  • Baines, Edward (1847). An alarm to the nation, on the unjust, unconstitutional and dangerous measure of state education proposed by the government.
  • Baines, Edward (1851). The life of Edward Baines, late M.P. for the Borough of Leeds. Longman, Brown, Green and Longman (London); Reid Newsome (Leeds).

See alsoEdit

  • Charles Reed, educationalist and MP, married Edward Baines's sister Margaret
  • Edward Crossley, of Halifax, carpet-manufacturer, astronomer and MP, married Edward Baines's third daughter, Jane Eleanor


  1. ^ a b "Death of Sir Edward Baines MP". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 3 March 1890. p. 5. (the obituary in the Leeds Mercury is unreliable: for example his views on the educational clauses of the 1843 Factory Bill are "remembered with advantages" to the extent that it is specifically denied that he ever held them.)
  2. ^ "The late Mr John Peele Clapham JP". Pateley Bridge & Nidderdale Herald. British Newspaper Archive. 21 September 1889. p. 4 col.3. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Sir James Graham's Third Edition. Labour clauses – Compulsory Education". Leeds Mercury. 1 July 1843. p. 4.
  4. ^ Edward Baines (1836). "Baines's History of the Cotton Manufacture". The British and Foreign Review or European Quarterly Journal. London: James Ridgway and Sons. 2: 96,89. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  5. ^ The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, accessed April 2009


External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Matthew Talbot Baines
George Skirrow Beecroft
Member of Parliament for Leeds
With: George Skirrow Beecroft to 1868
Robert Meek Carter from 1868
William Wheelhouse from 1868
Succeeded by
Robert Tennant
Robert Meek Carter
William Wheelhouse