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Hansard subscription form, W Gladstone

In 1857, William Ewart Gladstone took out this subscription to Hansard, 10 years before he first became Prime Minister; he eventually served as Prime Minister of four administrations (1868–74, 1880–85, February–July 1886 and 1892–94). He was first elected to Parliament in 1832 and served in Robert Peel's Cabinet. Gladstone became the leader of the Peelites on Peel's death in 1850 and served as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Aberdeen in 1852, but resigned in 1855, a few weeks into Lord Palmerston's first premiership, over a motion to establish a committee of inquiry into the Crimean war. He took out this subscription when he was in opposition; although he was still a Peelite, he did not feel able to work with the Conservative Lord Derby.

The address on this slip is given as 11, Carlton House Terrace, where Gladstone lived for 20 years. Earl Grey, Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834, was a neighbour at number 13. The terrace was designed by John Nash and built in the 1830s as part of a scheme to redevelop St James's Park, and was a short walk to Parliament. At this time of this subscription, Gladstone took up the pastime of tree-felling. He was a great bibliophile, and is estimated to have read 20,000 books and had a library of nearly twice this number.

Gladstone saw 'Hansard' as an essential publication: “I think we shall all feel that something coming as near to a record as Hansard's Debates is a matter of great historical and even of political necessity” ('Hansard', 20.4.1877, col. 1578), although in the same debate he admitted that during the 1830s, another publication, the 'Mirror of Parliament', “is the primary record, and not Hansard's Debates, because of the greater fulness which Barrow aimed at and obtained” (col. 1577).