John Eldon Gorst

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The Right Honourable
Sir John Eldon Gorst
John Eldon Gorst, Vanity Fair, 1880-07-31.jpg
"Tory organisation". Caricature by Spy published in Vanity Fair in 1880.
In office
2 July 1885 – 28 January 1886
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded by Sir Farrer Herschell
Succeeded by Sir Horace Davey
Under-Secretary of State for India
In office
4 August 1886 – 9 November 1891
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded by Stafford Howard
Succeeded by Hon. George Curzon
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
9 November 1891 – 11 August 1892
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister The Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded by William Jackson
Succeeded by Sir J. T. Hibbert
Vice-President of the
Committee on Education
In office
4 July 1895 – 8 August 1902
Monarch Victoria
Edward VII
Prime Minister The Marquess of Salisbury
Arthur Balfour
Preceded by Arthur Dyke Acland
Succeeded by The Duke of Devonshire
Personal details
Born 24 May 1835 (1835-05-24)
Preston, Lancashire
Died 4 April 1916 (1916-04-05) (aged 80)
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Mary Elizabeth Moore
Alma mater St John's College, Cambridge

Sir John Eldon Gorst PC, QC, FRS (24 May 1835 – 4 April 1916) was a British lawyer and politician. He served as Solicitor General for England and Wales from 1885 to 1886 and as Vice-President of the Committee on Education between 1895 and 1902.

Background and education

Gorst was born in Preston, Lancashire, the son of Edward Chaddock Gorst, who took the name of Lowndes on succeeding to the family estate in 1853.[1] He graduated third wrangler from St John's College, Cambridge, in 1857, and was admitted to a fellowship.[2]

New Zealand

After beginning to read for the bar in London, his father's illness and death led to his sailing to New Zealand. The Māori 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),known as the kingmaker,established a Maori trade school in Te Awamutu and later acted as an intermediary between the Māori and the government. Sir George Grey made him inspector of schools, then resident magistrate, and eventually civil commissioner in Upper Waikato which the Kingite Maori considered their own land. Tamihana's influence secured his safety at the start of the conflict when chief Rewi Maniapoto of the Ngati Maniapoto tribe and his warriors attempted to kill Gorst. As Gorst was forewarned they made do by destroying the trade school,destroying a printing press and scaring all the settlers out of the Waikato where they had lived peacefully since 1830. This incident and the ambush and killing of British troops walking along a beach near New Plymouth, led to a restart of the war between the Maori King Movement and the New Zealand government in 1863. In 1884 he hosted the Maori King when he and his party came to England to seek an audience with Queen Victoria over issues to do with land . At that time Gorst was a member of the liberal Aborigine Protection League. In 1908 he published a volume of recollections, under the title of New Zealand Revisited: Recollections of the Days of my Youth.[1]

Political and legal career

Gorst then returned to England and was called to the Bar, Inner Temple, in 1865, becoming a Queen's Counsel in 1875. He stood unsuccessfully for Hastings as a Conservative in the 1865 general election,[1] but the next year he entered parliament as member for Cambridge,.[1][3] He served as Chairman of the inaugural meeting of the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations in November 1867.[4] He was not re-elected at the 1868 general election. After the Conservative defeat of that year Benjamin Disraeli entrusted him 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.[1]

At a by-election in 1875 Gorst reentered parliament as member for Chatham, which he continued to represent until 1892.[1][5] He joined Sir Henry Drummond-Wolff, Lord Randolph Churchill and Arthur Balfour in the Fourth Party as an advocate of Tory democracy. When the Conservatives came to power in 1885 under Lord Salisbury he was made Solicitor-General[1][6] and knighted. The government fell in January 1886 but when the Conservatives returned to office, in July of the same year, he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for India by Salisbury.[1] He was sworn of the Privy Council in 1890[1][7] and the following year he became Financial Secretary to the Treasury, a post he held until 1892. Between 1888 and 1891 he also served as deputy chairman of committees in the House of Commons.[1]

At the general election of 1892 Gorst became one of the two members for Cambridge University.[1][3] On the formation of the third Salisbury administration in 1895 he became Vice-President of the Committee on Education,[1][8] which he remained until August 1902, when the post was renamed President of the Board of Education.[1] However, he was never a member of the cabinet.

Gorst remained committed to the principles of Tory democracy which he had advocated in the days of the Fourth Party, and continued take 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. However, he became exceedingly independent in his political action. He objected to Joseph Chamberlain's proposals for tariff reform, and at the general election of 1906 he stood as an independent Free Trader, but came third, behind the two official Unionist candidates, and lost his seat. 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 Benjamin Disraeli. In 1910 he contested Preston as a Liberal, but failed to secure election.[1]


Gorst married Mary Elizabeth Moore in Geelong in 1860; they had met on the Red Jacket travelling from England to Melbourne.[9] Their elder son, Sir Eldon Gorst, became Consul-General in Egypt. Gorst died in London in April 1916, aged 80, and lies buried in St Andrew's churchyard, Castle Combe, Wilts. An account of his connection with Lord Randolph Churchill will be found in the Fourth Party (1906), by his younger son, Harold E. Gorst.[1]


  • John Eldon Gorst, Gorst, John Eldon, Sir, 1835-1916 (1908). New Zealand Revisited. Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). [ "Gorst, Sir John Eldon" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Gorst, John Eldon (GRST853JE)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 House of Commons: Caernarfon to Cambridgeshire South West
  4. DNB
  5. House of Commons: Carmarthen East and Dinefwr to Chesterton
  6. The London Gazette: no. 25486. p. 3061. 3 July 1885.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 26022. p. 727. 11 February 1890.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 26640. p. 3805. 5 July 1895.
  9. Sorrenson, M. P. K. "Gorst, John Eldon". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 6 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Elliott
Member of Parliament for Chatham
Succeeded by
Lewis Vivian Loyd
Preceded by
Sir George Stokes, Bt
Sir Richard Claverhouse Jebb
Member of Parliament for Cambridge University
With: Sir Richard Claverhouse Jebb
Succeeded by
John Frederick Peel Rawlinson
Samuel Henry Butcher
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Farrer Herschell
Solicitor General for England and Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Horace Davey
Party political offices
Preceded by
Chairman of the
National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations

Succeeded by
Viscount Holmesdale
Political offices
Preceded by
Stafford Howard
Under-Secretary of State for India
Succeeded by
Hon. George Curzon
Preceded by
William Jackson
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Sir J. T. Hibbert
Preceded by
Arthur Dyke Acland
Vice-President of the Committee on Education
Succeeded by
The Duke of Devonshire
Academic offices
Preceded by
Arthur Balfour
Rector of the University of Glasgow
Succeeded by
Joseph Chamberlain