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Encyclopedia > James Stansfeld

Sir James Stansfield (October 5, 1820 - February 17, 1898), English politician, was born at Moorlands, Halifax, the son of James Stansfeld, a county-court judge.


Educated at University College, London, he was called to the bar in 1849. In 1847 he was introduced through his father-in-law, WH Ashurst, to Mazzini, with whom he formed a close friendship. In 1859 he was returned to parliament as Radical member for Halifax, which town he continued to represent for over thirty-six years. He voted consistently on the Radical side, but his chief energies were devoted to promoting the cause of Italian unity.


He was selected by Garibaldi as his adviser when the Italian patriot visited England in 1862. In 1863 he moved in the House of Commons a resolution of sympathy with the Poles, and two months later was made a junior lord of the admiralty. In 1864, as the result of charges made against him by the French authorities, in connection with Greco's conspiracy against Napoleon III, Disraeli, in the House of Commons, accused him of being in correspondence with the assassins of Europe.


Stansfeld was vigorously defended by Bright and Forster, and his explanation was accepted as quite satisfactory by Palmerston. Nevertheless he only escaped a vote of censure by ten votes, and accordingly resigned office. In 1865 he was re-elected for Halifax, and in 1866 became under-secretary of state for India. In the first Gladstone administration he held a variety of public offices, finally becoming, in 1871, the first president of the local government board.


The remainder of his life was mainly spent in endeavouring to secure the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts, and in 1886 this object was attained. In the same year Stansfeld again became president of the local government board.


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