ANSON, Thomas (1767-1818), of Shugborough, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 14 Feb. 1767, 1st s. of George Adams† (afterwards Anson) of Shugborough, and bro. of George Anson*. educ. Eton 1779-84; Oriel, Oxf. 1784-8. m. 15 Sept. 1794, Anne Margaret, da. of Thomas William Coke I* of Holkham, Norf., 6s. 4da. suc. fa. 1789; cr. Visct. Anson 17 Feb. 1806.
Anson sat on the family interest unopposed. Pitt supposed that he would be a Whig like his father and would have been content to challenge his first election; but the 1st Marquess of Stafford, co-patron of Lichfield, demurred. He wished neither to upset the alliance of the two families to control the borough, nor to provoke Anson, who was young enough to choose his own politics and wealthy enough (with £16,000 p.a.) to resent such an eviction.1 Anson was then in Vienna, but on his return, at once adopted his father’s line. He met with the opposition at Burlington House on 11 May 1790 and on 10 Dec. joined Brooks’s Club, sponsored by Earl Fitzwilliam. He is not known to have spoken in the House. He voted with the opposition on Pitt’s foreign policy 12 Apr. 1791, 1 Mar. 1792; in the former month he was listed as a supporter of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. In 1793 he was thought of by Windham for his ‘third party’, but his Foxite associations were cemented by his marriage to Coke of Norfolk’s daughter. He subscribed to Fox’s relief fund; supported Fox’s motion on the protection of the mercantile marine, 18 Feb. 1794; voted for the taxation of placeholders, 8 Apr.; voted with Fox against the objectives of the war with France, 30 May, and with Wilberforce for a peace bid, 30 Dec. He voted to repeal the suspension of habeas corpus, 5, 23 Jan. 1795, and again for peace negotiations, 26 Jan., 6 Feb. On 24 Mar. he supported Fox’s censure motion and on 27 May Wilberforce’s further appeal for an armistice. He was opposed to the seditious meetings bill, 25 Nov. 1795.
In the Parliament of 1796 Anson pursued the same line, appearing in the minorities of 8 and 14 Dec. 1796, 3 Mar. 1797 and (mustered by Fox) on 26 May 1797, for parliamentary reform. He failed to secure a county meeting to call for the dismissal of ministers at the end of that session.2 He was however ‘indefatigable in his attentions to [Lichfield], in the hope of doing away the resolution formed there of never bringing him in again’. He seceded with the Foxites, returning only to vote against Pitt’s assessed taxes, 4 Jan., and against the revival of the land tax, 18 May 1798. On 3 Feb. 1800 he was in the minority critical of the refusal to negotiate with France and, a week later, of the failure of the expedition to Holland. He supported Western’s censure motion, 9 July 1800, Grey’s amendment to the address, 2 Feb., and Grey’s censure motion, 25 Mar. 1801.
Anson joined the Foxite stand against Addington when the resumption of war was imminent, 24 May 1803, and was in the two defence divisions that brought him down, 23, 25 Apr. 1804. He opposed Pitt’s second ministry on the additional defence bill in June 1804 and on war with Spain, 12 Feb. 1805. He voted for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 6 Mar. 1805, and was in both majorities against Melville, 8 Apr., 12 June. Had Fox come to terms with Pitt then, he meant to procure Anson a peerage. In February 1806 Fox was able to offer him one, knowing that it had long been Anson’s wish. It became a viscountcy at the wish of his wife, whose father had declined the honour at the same time.3
Anson, the leader of the Staffordshire Whigs and renowned for his magnificent hospitality, was an agricultural improver who, like his father-in-law, increased his fortune. An East India Company stockholder, he was entitled to two votes for the directorate by 1806. In 1794 he was reckoned worth £22,000 a year, and when he died, 31 July 1818, he left his heir ‘a clear and unencumbered estate of £70,000 per annum’. According to the Duke of Sussex, he was ‘a true, manly, noble, splendid fellow, possessing much of the real English character, sound sense, and although perhaps hurried away a little too much by country sports, has a great deal of good in him’.4
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: E. A. Smith / R. G. Thorne
- 1. Leveson Gower, i. 17; PRO 30/8/180, f. 100.
- 2. Lichfield mss, Fox to Anson, 20 May 1797; Sheridan Letters ed. Price, ii. 70.
- 3. Add. 47565, f. 261; Lichfield mss, Fox to Anson, Thurs. [6 Feb. 1806].
- 4. Dyott’s Diary, i. 296; Farington, i. 34; Staffs. RO, Hatherton diary, 3 Aug. 1818; Gent. Mag. (1818), ii. 375; Stirling, Coke of Norfolk (1912), 259.