Forster, William Edward, 1818–86, British statesman. He entered Parliament as a Liberal in 1861. As vice president of the council in William Gladstone's first ministry (1868–74), he introduced the Elementary Education Act (1870), which provided aid for existing schools, established supplementary nondenominational "board schools," and was the foundation for the English system of national compulsory education. In 1880 he went unwillingly to Ireland as chief secretary, but his opposition to Charles Parnell and his stern enforcement of the law made him so unpopular that attempts were made on his life. He resigned in 1882.
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