Leeds MPs

MOLESWORTH, Sir William (1810–1855) Whig/Liberal/Radical. Landowner.

After spending some years in Europe studying, he returned to England just as the struggle for Parliamentary Reform was reaching its climax. A declared Radical, he championed such causes as commutation of tithes, free trade, the secret ballot, triennial parliaments, removal of property qualifications for MPs, national education, and abolition of the House of Lords. He was elected for East Cornwall 1832. Although re-elected in 1835, his constituents grew more and more disenchanted with him and thus in 1837 he opted to become one of the Whig candidates in Leeds. Some of the Whig/Liberals in the town were hesitant that although he was seen as ‘a man of great influence and great talent’, he was also a Philosophical Radical, and some feared that voters might be ‘frightened by that term’.The Tories had no doubt that voting for Molesworth ‘was tantamount to abandoning the word of God’. He was successful, coming second, but only beat Sir John Beckett, the one Tory who stood, by 121 votes. He chose not to stand in 1841 but in 1845 he was elected for Southwark, a seat he retained until his death. He was appointed Commissioner of the Board of Works with a seat in the Cabinet in 1853, and the Colonial Office in 1855. For further reading see Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online edition (Oxford, 2014).