Mr Mercury : a biographical study of Edward Baines with special reference to his role as editor, author and politician
This thesis investigates the life and work of Edward Baines, editor of the Leeds Mercury from 1801 to 1848 and Member of Parliament for Leeds from 1834 to 1841. It considers his political, journalistic and literary achievements and it investigates why no authoritative complete study of his life has been carried out since his son's filial biography written in 1851. The thesis examines the confusion which has arisen because Edward Baines Senior and Junior were both journalists editing the Leeds Mercury, both campaigning Dissenters, both Members of Parliament for Leeds and that much of their political and journalistic lives ran concurrently and not consecutively. Consideration is given to Baines's antecedents, his early years and the influences that helped shape his thinking. Baines's philosophy is examined, particularly as it was expressed in both his newspaper editorials and his academic writings. It shows that his fundamental beliefs were rooted in Protestant Christianity and how this was reflected in his views by his opposition to war and slavery, his lifelong support for individual freedom as expressed through Whig-Liberalism and the cause of Nonconformism. The thesis then follows a chronological approach. The years 1801 to 1815 witnessed his campaign on behalf of the merchants and manufacturers of the West Riding and the active political role he adopted from the election of 1807 onwards. The years 1815 to 1829 revealed Baines at the apotheosis of his journalistic career, with the revelations of the Government Spy scandal, his involvement in the campaigns for Parliamentary Reform, the commencement of his literary career and the launch of his strategy to establish a Whig power base in Leeds by taking control of the Parish Church vestry. The years 1830 to 1841 demonstrated Baines as an active politician, becoming the Member for Leeds and using his parliamentary position to campaign for the rights of the Dissenters. His final years 1841 to 1848 showed him still active in politics locally; an examination is also made of his final commitment to evangelical Congregationalism. Primary source material has been used throughout to illustrate Baines, his beliefs and the views his contemporaries held of him. Although few manuscript primary sources are available a considerable amount of printed primary source material is to be found in Baines's books and almost fifty years of his LessisMercury. The newspapers of his opponents, which cover the same period, offer a diverse range of views on the man and these enable a more balanced view of him to be reached than that found in his son's biography.