He served as Under-Secretary of State for India under William Gladstone from 1883 to 1885. Cross entered Parliament for Bolton in 1874, a seat he held until 1885, when he was defeated. In 1883 he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for India in the second Liberal administration of William Ewart Gladstone, a post he retained until the government fell two years later.
Cross married Emily (née Carlton).
Cross suffered from diabetes which caused severe depression. He committed suicide by hanging in March 1887, aged 54.