COWEN, JOSEPH (1831-1900), English politician and journalist, son of Sir Joseph Cowen, a prominent citizen and mine-owner of Newcastle-on-Tyne, was born in 1831, and was educated at Edinburgh University. In 1874 he was elected member of parliament for the borough on the death of his father, who had held the seat as a Liberal since 1865. Joseph Cowen was at that time a strong Radical on domestic questions, an advocate of co-operation, an admirer of Garibaldi, Mazzini and Kossuth, a sympathizer with Irish Nationalism, and one who in speech, dress and manner identified himself with the North-country mining class. Short in stature and uncouth in appearance, his individuality first shocked and then by its earnestness impressed the House of Commons; and his sturdy independence of party ties, combined with a gift of rough but genuine eloquence (of which his speech on the Royal Title Bill of 1876 was an example), rapidly made him one of the best-known public men in the country. He was, moreover, an Imperialist and a Colonial Federationist at a time when Liberalism was tied and bound to the Manchester traditions; and, to the consternation of the official wire-pullers, he vigorously supported Disraeli's foreign policy, and in 1881 opposed the Gladstonian settlement with the Boers. His independence (which his detractors attributed in some degree to his alleged susceptibility to Tory compliments) brought him into collision both with the Liberal caucus and with the party organization in Newcastle itself, but Cowen's personal popularity and his remarkable powers as an orator triumphed in his own birthplace, and he was again elected in 1885 in spite of Liberal opposition. Shortly afterwards, however, he retired both from parliament and from public life, professing his disgust at the party intrigues of politics, and devoted himself to conducting his newspaper, the Newcastle Daily Chronicle, and to his private business as a mine-owner. In this capacity he exercised a wide influence on local opinion, and the revolt of the Newcastle electorate in later years against doctrinaire Radicalism was largely due to his constant preaching of a broader outlook on national affairs. He continued behind the scenes to play a powerful part in forming North-country opinion until his death on the 18th of February 1900.
His letters were published by his daughter in 1909.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)