1902 Encyclopedia > Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury
English philanthropist

ANTHONY ASHLEY COOPER, SEVENTH EARL OF SHAFTESBURY (1801-1885), was the son of Cropley, sixth earl, and Anne, daughter of the third duke of Marlborough, and was born 28th April 1801. He was educated at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford, where he obtained a first class in classics in 1822, and graduated M.A. in 1832. In 1841 he received from his university the degree of D.C.L. He entered parliament as member for the pocket borough of Woodstock in 1826; in 1830 he was returned for Dorchester; from 1831 till February 1846 he represented the county of Dorset; and he was member for Bath from 1847 till (having previously borne the courtesy title Lord Ashley) he succeeded his father as earl in 1851. Although giving a general support to the Conservatives, his parliamentary conduct was greatly modified by his intense interest in the improvement of the social condition of the working classes, his efforts in behalf of whom have made his name a household word. He opposed the Reform Bill of 1832, but was a supporter of Catholic emancipation, and his objection to the continuance of resistance to the abolition of the Corn Laws led him to resign his seat for Dorset in 1846. In parliament his name, more than any other, is associated with the factory legislation (see FACTORY ACTS, vol. viii. p. 845). He was a lord of the admiralty under Sir Robert Feel (1834-35), but on being invited to join Peel's administration in 1841 refused, having been unable to obtain Peel's support for the Ten Hours' Bill. Chiefly by his persistent efforts a Ten Hours' Bill was carried in 1847, but its operation was impeded by legal difficulties, wdiich were only removed by successive Acts, instigated chiefly by him, until legislation reached a final stage in the Factory Act of 1874. The part which he took in the legislation bearing on coal mines was equally prominent. It is worthy of notice that his efforts in behalf of the practical welfare of the working classes were guided by his own personal knowledge of their circumstances and wants. Thus in 1846 he took advantage of his leisure after the resignation of his seat for Dorset to explore.the slums of the metropolis, and by the information he obtained not only gave a new impulse to the movement for the establishment of ragged schools, but was able to make it more widely beneficial. For over forty years he was president of the Ragged School Union. He was also one of the principal founders of reformatory and refuge unions, young men's Christian associations, and working men's institutes. He took an active interest in foreign missions, and was president of several of the most important philanthropic and religious societies of London. He died 1st October 1885. By his marriage to Lady Emily, daughter of the fifth Earl Cowper, he left a large family, and was succeeded by his eldest son Anthony, who committed suicide shortly afterwards.

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