Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brotherton, Joseph

BROTHERTON, JOSEPH (1783–1857), parliamentary reformer, was born 22 May 1783 at Whittington, Chesterfield. His father, John Brotherton, who had been a schoolmaster and an exciseman, moved to Manchester in 1789, and soon afterwards set up a cotton mill. About 1802 Joseph became his father's partner, and in 1819 retired from business with a competency. In 1805 he joined the Bible Christian church, and in 1806 married his cousin, Martha Harvey. As Bible Christians they were vegetarians and total abstainers. Mrs. Brotherton published anonymously 'Vegetable Cookery' in numbers, first collected into book form in 1821. About 1818 Brotherton became pastor of his church. He was a vigorous local politician, and subscribed to the sufferers at the Peterloo massacre. He became member for Salford on the passing of the Reform Bill, and was re-elected till his death, his expenses being paid by his constituents. He continued to act as pastor during the parliamentary recesses. He was a free-trader and reformer. His good temper secured him general respect; and he was chairman of the private bills committee. He became famous for the persistence with which he moved the adjournment of the house at midnight, in spite of much ridicule and frequent disturbance. In February 1842, in answer to an attack by Mr. W. B. Ferrand, who had spoken of his 'enormous fortune' amassed by the factory system, he replied that his 'riches consisted not so much in the largeness of his means as in the fewness of his wants,' a phrase inscribed (with verbal alteration) upon his statue in the Peel Park, Salford. The speech in which the phrase occurs was printed separately, and many thousands were distributed. He wrote the essays on abstinence from intoxicating liquors and animal food which appeared in 'Letters on Religious Subjects, printed at Salford about 1819, and immediately reprinted at Philadelphia. The first of these is regarded, in its separate form, as the earliest tract in advocacy of 'teetotalism.' He died suddenly in an omnibus on 7 Jan. 1857. A public subscription was applied to form a fund for purchasing books for local institutions, the monument in the Salford cemetery, and a statue by Matthew Noble in Peel Park, which was inaugurated on 6 Aug. 1858. Brotherton had helped to found the library attached to the Peel Park Museum. A portrait by Westcott is in the Peel Park Museum; one by W. Bradley in the Salford town hall; and a third is in the Manchester town hall. His widow died 25 Jan. 1861, aged 79.

[Book-Lore, August 1885 (by the writer of this article); Manchester papers, 1857; Memoir of Rev. W. Metcalfe (Philadelphia, 1866); Prince's Poetical Works (1880), ii. 363; Barnford's Homely Rhymes, 1864, p. 126; Law Times, 13 June 1871; Edwards's Free Libraries; information from Miss Helen Brotherton.]

W. E. A. A.