FONNEREAU, Thomas (1699-1779), of Ipswich, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. 27 Oct. 1699, 1st s. of Claude Fonnereau, Hamburg merchant, by his 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of Philip Bureau of La Rochelle, and bro. of Zachary Philip Fonnereau. unm. suc. fa. 5 Apr. 1740.
Fonnereau’s father, a Huguenot naturalized in 1693, was a Hamburg merchant, and is stated to have made his fortune in the linen trade. He left large landed estates to Thomas, and considerable money legacies to him and the other children.1
Thomas, in 1754 a regular Government supporter, had an interest at Sudbury and Aldeburgh. With his brother Zachary Philip he had a share in the contract for victualling the Gibraltar garrison. The Fonnereaus were also big subscribers to Government loans: in 1757 Thomas applied for £30,000; in 1759 he underwrote £250,000, and in 1762 £350,000. These large subscriptions covered many customers, while Fonnereau’s permanent holdings in Government stock, as entered in the Bank of England records, were not considerable.2
Before 1761 only two interventions of Thomas Fonnereau in debate are recorded, on the budget, 28 Apr. 1758, and over the bill for restraining privateers, 4 May 1759, when he was ‘upon his feet but did not say much’.3
From 1760 onwards Fonnereau was engaged at Sudbury in a bitter struggle with Thomas Fenn, receiver general of the land tax in that part of Suffolk, who was originally appointed at Fonnereau’s recommendation, but afterwards turned against him; favoured, however, by powerful protectors, foremost the Duke of Grafton, he retained his office, undermining Fonnereau’s influence in the borough.
In Bute’s list of December 1761 Fonnereau was marked ‘Newcastle, contra’; in Newcastle’s list of 13 Nov. he and his brother still appear as friends; and they voted with the Opposition for postponing consideration of the peace preliminaries, 1 Dec. Thomas also voted against the preliminaries on Thursday, 9 Dec., but did not vote the next day. How the Fonnereaus were got over to the Government side appears from an account by Newcastle of his talk with Zachary Philip on 16 Dec. As it was Zachary Philip who had talked both to Bute and Newcastle the story is told in his biography although Newcastle believed that it was ‘Tom Fonnereau who has done this with his brother’. Henceforth they steadily adhered to Government, and were among its leading financiers.4 But after the Grenville Administration had been dismissed, Temple wrote to Grenville, 8 Aug. 1765: ‘All the little Fonnereaus ... have been performing the eastern adoration of that rising sun, Lord Rockingham, at his levee.’5 Rockingham in his list of July classed them as ‘pro’, and in November 1766 as ‘Swiss’ (prepared to support every Administration), and both Townshend in January and Newcastle on 2 Mar. again as Government followers. Thomas voted with the Government on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767.
The approaching general election of 1768 soured relations between Fonnereau and Government: at Sudbury an opposition was raised to him by men friendly to the Government and by Fenn, whom he could not get dismissed, and similarly at Aldeburgh the opposition to the Fonnereaus boasted of Government support. When on 17 Feb. 1768 Beckford’s bill against bribery in elections was discussed in committee,
Fonnereau, [writes Horace Walpole] a peevish man, who had all his life been a court tool, complained that Chauncy Townsend, a brother dependant, but more favoured, had so much interest with the ministers, that one Bennet, parson of Aldeburgh, and attached to Townsend, had vaunted that he could obtain the dismission of any officer of the revenue who should vote for Fonnereau.6
To this Harris adds that Fonnereau complained of Townsend’s agent offering £200 a man to the Aldeburgh voters.7 Bradshaw, Grafton’s secretary to the Treasury, ‘having been concerned in the business’ at Aldeburgh, writes Walpole, ‘the Opposition hoped to reach the Duke himself, and ordered the parson to their bar’. Dunning, the new solicitor-general but not yet in Parliament, appeared for Bennet.
Fonnereau, to save £40, for he was a very miser, had refused counsel, and behaved so obstinately and absurdly that though Grenville, Wedderburn, and Dowdeswell supported, and gave him hints, with all their parliamentary craft, he counteracted his own witnesses; and it came out that he had not only been more criminal himself than the clergyman, but for a series of years had established and profited of ministerial influence in the borough in question.8
He turned the House against himself, and the parson was acquitted by 155 to 39.
At the general election Thomas Fonnereau stood for Sudbury and was defeated both on the poll and on his petition. At Aldeburgh, he put up his brother Zachary Philip and his friend Nicholas Linwood, who was rich and in favour with Grafton; and they were returned unopposed. Thomas Fonnereau himself was now out of Parliament till returned for Aldeburgh on Linwood’s death. In 1774 he stood both for Sudbury and Aldeburgh, and was returned for both; but having been unseated on petition at Sudbury, he sat for Aldeburgh.
On 25 Feb. 1774, on Grenville’s Election Act, he voted with Opposition. His name does not appear in the Opposition list over Wilkes, 22 Feb. 1775, nor on Lord John Cavendish’s amendment to the Address, 26 Oct. 1775; but he voted with them over payment of the King’s debts, 16 Apr. 1777, and in two divisions on America, 2 Feb. 1778 and 3 Mar. 1779.
He died 20 Mar. 1779.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Agnew, Protestant Exiles from France, ii. 399, 400, 485; Gent. Mag. 1740, p. 203.
- 2. Add. 32866, ff. 393-4; 32868, ff. 170-1; 32901, f. 238; 33040, ff. 290-1; Devonshire mss.
- 3. Add. 32879, f. 331; H. V. Jones to Newcastle, Add. 32890, f. 488.
- 4. Jenkinson Pprs. 353.
- 5. Grenville mss (JM).
- 6. Mems. Geo. III, iii. 112-13; Add 32988, f. 361.
- 7. Add. 32988, f. 355.
- 8. Mems. Geo. III, iii. 114, corrected from original.