Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Scholefield, William

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

SCHOLEFIELD, WILLIAM (1809–1867), politician, born in 1809 in the ‘Old Square,’ Birmingham (now absorbed in new buildings), was second son of Joshua Scholefield (1744–1844), M.P. for Birmingham.

His father, whose chief residence in later life was Edgbaston Grove, Birmingham, long engaged in business in Birmingham as a banker, merchant, and manufacturer, and took an active part in politics and in municipal and charitable affairs there. During the reform agitation of 1830–2 he was vice-president of the Political Union, and was elected (12 Dec. 1832), with Thomas Attwood, the first representative of Birmingham after the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832. In and out of parliament he advocated the radical programme, arguing for triennial parliaments, vote by ballot, and free trade. He was re-elected for Birmingham at the general elections of 1835, 1837, and 1841, on the first two occasions with Attwood, and on the last with George Frederick Muntz [q. v.] He still occupied himself with banking business, becoming a director of both the National Provincial Bank of England and the London Joint-Stock Bank. He died in London on 4 July 1844. He was twice married, and left two sons, Clement Cotterill and William (Gent. Mag. 1844, ii. 431, 695; Birmingham Journal, 1846).

In 1837 William, the younger son, after travelling through the United States and Canada, settled down at Birmingham, taking part in his father's business and associating himself with public affairs under his father's guidance. In 1837 he became high bailiff of the court leet of Birmingham. Next year the city received after a long struggle a charter of incorporation of Birmingham. On 5 Nov. the legal document was publicly read in the town-hall. On 26 Dec. the first election of town councillors took place, and Scholefield was chosen the first mayor. On his father's death in July 1844 he stood for the vacant seat in parliament, and expressed views even more extreme in their radicalism than those his father had adopted. He was defeated by Richard Spooner, a conservative. But at the general election of 1847 he was returned with George Frederick Muntz. In 1852 and 1857 Muntz and Scholefield were again elected. In 1857, on Muntz's death, his place was taken by John Bright without opposition, and Scholefield and Bright continued to hold the seat together till the former's death on 9 July 1867. He married and left issue.

Trained in liberal principles by his father, Scholefield advocated in parliament every measure which tended to enlarge the people's political rights, commercial freedom, or religious liberty. He was one of the twelve members of parliament who voted for the people's charter, and actively supported bills for repealing the paper duties and taxes on knowledge, for lowering the income tax, and for preventing adulteration of food. Land and building societies and mechanics' institutions were liberally encouraged by him. Party ties did not destroy his independence of judgment, and, unlike the majority of his political friends, he opposed Lord John Russell's Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, and supported the cause of the North during the American war.

[Birmingham Post and Gazette, 10 July 1867; Gent. Mag. 1867, ii. 262; personal knowledge.]

S. T.