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BRIGHT, JOHN:

English statesman and orator; born at Greenbank, Nov. 16, 1811; died in Rochdale March 27, 1889. It has been stated that his mother, Martha Jacobs, was a Jewess; but this statement is erroneous, such Biblical names being not uncommon among the English peasantry. During his long public career he more than once distinguished himself as an unflinching advocate of the political emancipation of the Jews of England, on the ground of what he designated "justice to the Jewish population of the country." On May 14, 1849, on the introduction of the Parliamentary Oaths' Bill—which dealt with the question of the right of Jews to sit in Parliament—Bright delivered a powerful speech in the House of Commons, fervently advocating the claims of the Jewish race and declaring that he "should vote for the bill, as far as it goes, because it admitted Jews into Parliament." On many other occasions he took the same position, as, for instance, in 1851, when the question of Jewish disabilities was raised in Parliament by the action of Alderman Salomons. But in his speech delivered in the House of Commons on April 15, 1853, during the debate on the Jewish Disabilities Bill, Bright gave the most vigorous expression to his principles of religious equality as applied to the Jews. His attitude toward the Jews was independent of any personal feeling, and was a direct outcome of his religious and political principles.

Bibliography:
  • Jewish Chronicle, March 29, 1889, p. 9;
  • April 5, 1889, p. 8;
  • Bright's Speeches on Questions of Public Policy, edited by James E. Thorold Rogers, ii. 487-495, London, 1868.
J. B. B.
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