Sir John Eldon Gorst - Encyclopedia

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SIR JOHN ELDON GORST (1835-), English statesman, was born at Preston in 1835, the son of Edward Chaddock Gorst, who took the name of Lowndes on succeeding to the family estate in 1853. He graduated third wrangler from St John's College, Cambridge, in 1857, and was admitted to a fellowship. After beginning to read for the bar in London, his father's illness and death led to his sailing to New Zealand, where he married in 1860 Mary Elizabeth Moore. The Maoris had at that time set up a king of their own in the Waikato district and Gorst, who had made friends with the chief Tamihana (William Thomson), acted as an intermediary between the Maoris and the government. Sir George Grey made him inspector of schools, then resident magistrate, and eventually civil commissioner in Upper Waikato. Tamihana's influence secured his safety in the Maori outbreak of 1863. In 1908 he published a volume of recollections, under the title of New Zealand Revisited: Recollections of the Days of my Youth. He then returned to England and was called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1865, becoming Q.C. in 1875. He stood unsuccessfully for Hastings in the Conservative interest in 1865, and next year entered parliament as member for the borough of Cambridge, but failed to secure re-election at the dissolution of 1868. After the Conservative defeat of that year he was entrusted by Disraeli with the reorganization of the party machinery, and in five years of hard work he paved the way for the Conservative success at the general election of 1874. At a bye-election in 1875 he reentered parliament as member for Chatham, which he continued to represent until 1892. He joined Sir Henry DrummondWolff, Lord Randolph Churchill and Mr Arthur Balfour in the "Fourth Party," and he became solicitor-general in the administration of1885-1886and was knighted. On the formation of the second Salisbury administration (1886) he became undersecretary for India and in 1891 financial secretary to the Treasury. At the general election of 1892 he became member for Cambridge University. He was deputy chairman of committees in the House of Commons from 1888 to 1891, and on the formation of the third Salisbury administration in 1895 he became vice-president of the committee of the council on education (until 1902). Sir John Gorst adhered to the principles of Tory democracy which he had advocated in the days of the fourth party, and continued to exhibit an active interest in the housing of the poor, the education and care of their children, and in social questions generally, both in parliament and in the press. But he was always exceedingly "independent" in his political action. He objected to Mr Chamberlain's proposals for tariff reform, and lost his seat at Cambridge at the general election of 1906 to a tariff reformer. He then withdrew from the vice-chancellorship of the Primrose League, of which he had been one of the founders, on the ground that it no longer represented the policy of Lord Beaconsfield. In 1910 he contested Preston as a Liberal, but failed to secure election.

His elder son, SIR J. Eldon Gorst (b. 1861), was financial adviser to the Egyptian government from 1898 to 1904, when he became assistant under-secretary of state for foreign affairs.

In 1907 he succeeded Lord Cromer as British agent and consulgeneral in Egypt.

An account of Sir John Gorst's connexion with Lord Randolph Churchill will be found in the Fourth Party (1906), by his younger son, Harold E. Gorst.

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