John Ashton Yates

John Ashton Yates was a British Whig politician and railroad investor.

He was a son of Elizabeth (née Ashton) Bostock Yates and John Yates, a prominent Unitarian minister who served at Kaye Street Chapel in Liverpool, later known as Paradise Street Chapel. Among his siblings were brothers Joseph Brooks Yates, a merchant, and James Yates, a minister and scholar; both brothers were prominent antiquaries.

His father was the only child of John Yates, a schoolmaster, and his mother was the youngest daughter of merchant John Brooks Ashton of Woolton Hall near Liverpool, and the widow of physician John Bostock. From his mother's first marriage, he had an elder half-brother, John Bostock, who was also a physician. William James, who was also an MP, was his cousin.

Yates was educated by a Unitarian minister, William Shepherd, at Gateacre, Liverpool, before he studied commerce at the Presbyterian-run Manchester Academy. His teachers included Thomas Barnes, the minister of Cross Street Chapel, and John Dalton. He was particularly close to Dalton, who had previously taught his father at the Academy and with whom he went on a walking tour.

He was apprenticed to the firm run by the William Rathbone family. One of his contemporaries there was Thomas Bolton, who also had a political career ahead of him. Yates became a merchant and broker in Liverpool. The firm of Yates and Cox, iron merchants and nail manufacturers, was a partnership with his brothers, Richard Vaughan Yates, who established Prince's Park, Liverpool, and Pemberton Heywood Yates. In 1830, he was one of the initial proprietors of the Wigan Branch Railway, the Manchester and Leeds Railway and in 1836 the Blackwall Railway.

Yates stood unsuccessfully for the Bolton seat in Lancashire at the 1832 general election. He was the Whig Party Member of Parliament (MP) for County Carlow, Ireland, between 1837 and 1841, but lost his Carlow seat in the 1841 contest.

In 1820, Yates was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and wrote several books related to the Corn Laws and economics. Despite his own involvement in slavery, he also wrote in opposition to it. His interest in old paintings and engravings, which he collected, was influenced by William Roscoe, who was another Unitarian MP from Liverpool. He was also a member of the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society from its origin in 1812; their obituary described his art collection as "one of the finest private minor collections in the metropolis".

Probably a member of Renshaw Street Chapel in Liverpool, Yates served as president of the British and Foreign Unitarian Association in 1841 and 1856. Throughout his life, he retained a connection to the Academy, which became known as Manchester New College; he served as an official of it.