William Harris (Birmingham Liberal)

William HarrisThe Caucus
William Harris (1826 – 25 March 1911) was a Liberal politician and strategist in Birmingham, England, in an era of dramatic municipal reform.wikipedia
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National Liberal Federation

NLF
He was dubbed the "father of the Caucus", the highly organised and controversial Liberal party machine that had its origins in Birmingham, but was afterwards introduced at national level to the National Liberal Federation.
Its structure – which became known as the "Caucus" – was modelled on that of the Birmingham Liberal Association, which had been so effective in building a mass membership and an efficient electioneering body in the city under the political leadership of Joseph Chamberlain, and drawing on the strategic and organisational skills of William Harris (secretary 1868–73) and Francis Schnadhorst (secretary 1873–84).

John Henry Chamberlain

J. H. ChamberlainJ.H. ChamberlainProfessor Chamberlin
In the late 1850s, he entered into a professional partnership with John Henry Chamberlain: it was short-lived, but the two remained friends, and in later life Harris would marry (as his second wife) Chamberlain's widow.
In the late 1850s, he entered into a partnership with William Harris.

Joseph Chamberlain

ChamberlainJoseph The Right Honourable '''Joseph Chamberlain
He became a founder-member of Dawson's non-denominational chapel, the Church of the Saviour, in 1847, where fellow-members included George Dixon, J. T. Bunce, J. A. Langford, Robert Martineau, Samuel Timmins, A. Follett Osler, and Joseph Chamberlain.
In the autumn of 1869 a deputation headed by William Harris invited him to stand for the Town Council; and in November he was elected to represent St. Paul's Ward.

John Alfred Langford

J. A. Langford
He became a founder-member of Dawson's non-denominational chapel, the Church of the Saviour, in 1847, where fellow-members included George Dixon, J. T. Bunce, J. A. Langford, Robert Martineau, Samuel Timmins, A. Follett Osler, and Joseph Chamberlain.
In 1850, three of the members, Langford, William Harris and Henry Latham, published a volume of poems that had emerged from these sessions, entitled Thoughts from the Inner Circle.

George Dawson (preacher)

George DawsonGeorge
As a young man, Harris was greatly impressed by the charismatic nonconformist minister, George Dawson, who preached the doctrine of social improvement and enlightened municipal reform subsequently known as the "Civic Gospel".
His sermons electrified the Birmingham public and influential members of his Church included Joseph Chamberlain (who took Sunday School and oversaw the accounts), Jesse Collings, George Dixon, J. A. Langford, Robert Martineau, Samuel Timmins, William Harris, A. F. Osler, and the Kenrick family, all of whom played an important part in local affairs and took on his ideals.

Cheadle, Staffordshire

CheadleStaffordshire
William Harris was born in 1826 in Cheadle, Staffordshire, the son of Joseph Harris and his wife Elizabeth, Swindell.
William Harris (1826 in Cheadle – 1911), Liberal politician and strategist in Birmingham in an era of dramatic municipal reform

Caucus

caucusesparty caucusWomen's Caucus
He was dubbed the "father of the Caucus", the highly organised and controversial Liberal party machine that had its origins in Birmingham, but was afterwards introduced at national level to the National Liberal Federation.
The system had originated at a local level in Birmingham in preparation for the 1868 general election, when, under the 1867 Reform Act, the city had been allocated three parliamentary seats, but each elector had only two votes: in order to spread votes evenly, the secretary of the Birmingham Liberal Association, William Harris (later dubbed the "father of the Caucus") devised a four-tier organizational structure (of ward committees, general committee, executive committee, and management committee) through which Liberal voters in different wards could be instructed in the precise combinations in which to cast their votes.

Bennetts Hill

Bennett's Hill
Two notable commissions were, in 1881–4, an extension to the headquarters building of the Birmingham Banking Company in Bennetts Hill, Birmingham; and, for the same company in 1883, the "Old Bank" (now a branch of HSBC) in Stratford-upon-Avon, which was decorated with 15 terracotta panels of Shakespearean scenes by Samuel Barfield (1830–1887) of Leicester.
An extension at no. 33 Bennetts Hill was designed by Harris & Martin in 1881–4.

Francis Schnadhorst

He continued as secretary until 1873, when he was succeeded in turn by Francis Schnadhorst.
The Birmingham Liberal Association was established in 1865, and radically reorganised by its secretary, William Harris, in 1868: Schnadhorst succeeded Harris as secretary in 1873.

Civic Gospel

As a young man, Harris was greatly impressed by the charismatic nonconformist minister, George Dawson, who preached the doctrine of social improvement and enlightened municipal reform subsequently known as the "Civic Gospel".
Dawson's congregation at the Church of the Saviour included some of the most influential cultural and political leaders of Victorian Birmingham, including not only Joseph Chamberlain, but also George Dixon, J. T. Bunce, J. A. Langford, Robert Martineau, Samuel Timmins, A. F. Osler, Jesse Collings, William Kenrick, and William Harris.

George Dixon (MP)

George Dixona local politicianGeorge Dixon MP
He became a founder-member of Dawson's non-denominational chapel, the Church of the Saviour, in 1847, where fellow-members included George Dixon, J. T. Bunce, J. A. Langford, Robert Martineau, Samuel Timmins, A. Follett Osler, and Joseph Chamberlain.
The Education Societies paved the way for the bolder and more political National Education League which started in Birmingham in 1869, chaired by Dixon, with support from Joseph Chamberlain (vice-chairman, later chairman of the executive committee), Jesse Collings (honorary secretary of the League, and of the Education Aid Society), R. W. Dale, and William Harris.

Samuel Timmins

Sam Timmins
He became a founder-member of Dawson's non-denominational chapel, the Church of the Saviour, in 1847, where fellow-members included George Dixon, J. T. Bunce, J. A. Langford, Robert Martineau, Samuel Timmins, A. Follett Osler, and Joseph Chamberlain.
In about 1858, Timmins, the nonconformist preacher George Dawson, J. T. Bunce, J. H. Chamberlain, William Harris, and others in their circle, began to meet for literary and cultural discussions.

Church of the Saviour, Birmingham

Church of the Saviour
He became a founder-member of Dawson's non-denominational chapel, the Church of the Saviour, in 1847, where fellow-members included George Dixon, J. T. Bunce, J. A. Langford, Robert Martineau, Samuel Timmins, A. Follett Osler, and Joseph Chamberlain.
His sermons electrified the Birmingham public and influential members of his Church included Joseph Chamberlain (who took Sunday School and oversaw the accounts), Jesse Collings, George Dixon, J. T. Bunce, J. A. Langford, Robert Martineau, Samuel Timmins, William Harris, and the Kenrick family, all of whom played an important part in local affairs and took on his ideals.

National Education League

Birmingham Education LeagueNational Education League/Birmingham Education League
He was joint honorary secretary of the Birmingham branch of the National Public School Association, established in 1850 but short-lived; sat on the committee of the Birmingham Education Society established in 1867; and, when this evolved in 1869 into the National Education League, continued to be a committee-member and a significant participant until 1877, when the League was wound up and absorbed unto the National Liberal Federation.
Other leading founding members (all in Birmingham) were R. W. Dale, A. Follett Osler, J. H. Chamberlain, George Dawson, and William Harris.

Birmingham Post

Birmingham Daily PostThe Birmingham PostBirmingham Post and Mail
He afterwards became an active (but still anonymous) leader-writer for the Birmingham Daily Post under the editorship of his friend, J. T. Bunce.
It printed informed articles on the ideals of the Civic Gospel, and gave a platform to radical figures such as John Bright, George Dawson, Robert William Dale, and William Harris.

Robert William Dale

R. W. DaleDr. R. W. DaleRobert Dale
In 1892, the radical preacher Dr Robert Dale, looking back to the 1870s, mused:
Although Dale did not preach politics, he was a keen Liberal and worked with other Birmingham reformers and radicals including Joseph Chamberlain, William Kenrick, Jesse Collings, George Dixon, John Bright, John Henry Chamberlain, William Harris, and Samuel Timmins.

Key Hill Cemetery

Birmingham Central CemeteryKey Hill
He died on 25 March 1911, of heart failure following an attack of bronchitis, and was buried, alongside his first wife, in Key Hill Cemetery, Hockley.
William Harris (1826–1911): Liberal Party politician and strategist, architect, and writer. Plot 1.C.

Liberal Party (UK)

LiberalLiberal PartyLiberals
William Harris (1826 – 25 March 1911) was a Liberal politician and strategist in Birmingham, England, in an era of dramatic municipal reform.

Birmingham

Birmingham, EnglandCity of BirminghamBirmingham, United Kingdom
William Harris (1826 – 25 March 1911) was a Liberal politician and strategist in Birmingham, England, in an era of dramatic municipal reform.

James Louis Garvin

J. L. GarvinJL GarvinGarvin
J. L. Garvin called him "the Abbé Sieyès of Birmingham" (in allusion to one of the chief political theorists of the French Revolutionary era); and Asa Briggs "a most active and intelligent wire-puller behind the scenes".

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès

SieyèsAbbé SieyèsAbbe Sieyes
J. L. Garvin called him "the Abbé Sieyès of Birmingham" (in allusion to one of the chief political theorists of the French Revolutionary era); and Asa Briggs "a most active and intelligent wire-puller behind the scenes".

French Revolution

RevolutionRevolutionaryrevolutionary France
J. L. Garvin called him "the Abbé Sieyès of Birmingham" (in allusion to one of the chief political theorists of the French Revolutionary era); and Asa Briggs "a most active and intelligent wire-puller behind the scenes".

Asa Briggs

Asa Briggs, Baron BriggsLord BriggsBriggs, Asa
J. L. Garvin called him "the Abbé Sieyès of Birmingham" (in allusion to one of the chief political theorists of the French Revolutionary era); and Asa Briggs "a most active and intelligent wire-puller behind the scenes".

Political machine

machine politicsmachinepolitical boss
He was dubbed the "father of the Caucus", the highly organised and controversial Liberal party machine that had its origins in Birmingham, but was afterwards introduced at national level to the National Liberal Federation.

Elopement

elopeelopedeloping
His parents' liaison had met with the disapproval of their families, and they had eloped together in 1822, to be married at Gretna Green.