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Sir John Gladstone, 1st Baronet (11 December 1764 – 7 December 1851) was a Scottish merchant Member of Parliament, and the father of the British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone.


Early life

Born in Leith, in Midlothian, Scotland, John Gladstones was the eldest son of Thomas Gladstones (1732-1809) and Helen Neilson (1739-1806). John was the second of the family's sixteen children. Thomas Gladstones was born in Biggar, Lanarkshire, the son of a miller and farmer. Thomas moved to Leith in 1746, aged 14, to be apprenticed to a wine merchant. Thomas later became a successful corn merchant in Leith and 1762 he married Helen Neilson. Thomas Gladstones was a Whig and an elder in the Church of Scotland. He is buried in North Leith churchyard on Coburg Street.

John Gladstone followed his father into the mercantile business, working first for his father's business, before basing himself in Liverpool in 1787, where he entered the house of grain merchants Corrie & Company as a clerk. He was eventually taken into the firm as a partner, the name of the house becoming Corrie, Gladstone & Bradshaw. The business of the firm, and the wealth of its members, soon grew very large. Once he had settled in Liverpool, Gladstones dropped the "s" from his surname, although this was not legally regularized until 1835.

Marriage and family

In 1792, he married his first wife Jane Hall, the daughter of a Liverpool merchant. However, she died in 1798.

In 1800, he married his second wife Anne MacKenzie Robertson, the daughter of Andrew Robertson, a solicitor and the Provost of Dingwall in Ross-shire. They had six children together:

  1. Anne MacKenzie Gladstone (1802-1829)
  2. Sir Thomas Gladstone, 2nd Baronet (1804-1889)
  3. Robertson Gladstone (1805-1875)[1]
  4. John Neilson Gladstone (1807-1863)
  5. William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898)
  6. Helen Jane Gladstone (1814-1880)


John Gladstone made a fortune trading in corn with the United States and cotton with Brazil. He acquired large sugar plantations in Jamaica and Demerara, and was Chairman of the West India Association. He used slaves on these estates and when the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1833, he was active in obtaining compensation for slave owners.

After the abolition of slavery, John Gladstone used Indentured servants from India to work in slavery-like conditions in his sugar plantations. Knowing that a number of Indians had been sent to Mauritius as indentured labour[2], he hit upon the idea of using them in his plantations in the West Indies as well. In a letter dated January 4, 1836 to Messrs. Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co of Calcutta, Gladstone expressed his desire to obtain labour from India.[3] He used false promises of light work, comfortable housing and schools to make work on Gladstone plantations appear attractive to prospective Indian migrants. Indians, on their arrival in British Guiana, became known as Hill Coolies.[4]. From 1838 to 1917, over 200,000 Indians arrived under indentureship in British Guiana alone. They lived under slave like conditions in the plantations.[5]

After sixteen years of operations, Corrie, Gladstone & Bradshaw was dissolved and its business was continued by John Gladstone under the name of John Gladstone & Company. His six brothers followed him from Leith to Liverpool, and he took his brother Robert into partnership with him. Their business became very extensive, having a large trade with Russia, and as sugar importers and West India merchants. In 1814, when the monopoly of the British East India Company was broken and trade with India and China was opened to competition, Gladstone's firm was the first to send a private ship to Calcutta.


Gladstone was also interested in politics. He was in favour of a qualified reform of the franchise and of Greek independence during the 1820s. At first he was a Whig, but he came to support the Tory George Canning, and became a Tory. In 1812 he presided over a meeting at Liverpool which was called to invite Canning to represent Liverpool in the House of Commons. Gladstone wanted to represent Liverpool himself, but this never happened. Instead, he was Member of Parliament for Lancaster (1818-1820), Woodstock (1820-1826), and Berwick-upon-Tweed (1826-1827). This rejection by Liverpool soured his relationship with the city. William Gladstone began his political career as a right-wing Tory like his father, before becoming a Liberal Prime Minister.

Later years

Returning to his native Scotland after 42 years, in 1829 John Gladstone bought the Fasque Estate in Kincardineshire from Sir Alexander Ramsay for £80,000. In 1846 he was created a Baronet by the outgoing Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel.

In 1838 he paid for several philanthropic works in his home town of Leith, all built on Mill Lane, the old western route out of the town, namely: St Thomas' Church (now a Sikh temple; an adjacent manse; a free school for boys; a separate free school for girls; and a "house for female incurables" (what at the time would normally be called a lunatic asylum; and at the end a public rose garden. The original free school on Mill Lane (1820) linked to the Poorhouse opposite, and was made redundant due to Gladstone's new schools. Ironically the latter, c.1995 was converted to a public house, entitled "Gladstones" though having only this very tangential link.

Sir John Gladstone died at Fasque House in December 1851, aged 86, and was buried at St Andrew's Episcopal Church at Fasque. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Thomas Gladstone, 2nd Baronet.

A plaque has been erected on the corner of Great Junction Street and King Street in Leith commemorating John Gladstone.


  1. ^ "History". Friends of Court Hey Park. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  2. ^ History of the South Asian Diaspora
  3. ^ "Letter". 4 January 1836. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  4. ^ "Hill Coolies". Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  5. ^ "East Indian Indentureship in the Caribbean". Cariwave. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 

See also

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Fenton-Cawthorne
Gabriel Doveton
Member of Parliament for Lancaster
1818 – 1820
With: Gabriel Doveton
Succeeded by
John Fenton-Cawthorne
Preceded by
Sir Henry Dashwood, Bt
The Lord Robert Spencer
Member of Parliament for Woodstock
1820 – 1826
With: James Haughton Langston
Succeeded by
Marquess of Blandford
Lord Ashley
Preceded by
Sir Francis Blake, Bt
Sir John Beresford, Bt
Member of Parliament for Berwick
1826 – 1827
With: Marcus Beresford
Succeeded by
Sir Francis Blake, Bt
Marcus Beresford
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of Fasque)
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Gladstone


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