THOMPSON, Thomas II (1754-1828), of Cottingham Castle, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 5 Apr. 1754, s. of a yeoman of Owborough Grange, Swine, nr. Kingston-upon-Hull. educ. by Rev. William Stead, vicar of Swine; Brandsburton sch. until 1770. m. 29 Aug. 1781, Philothea Perronet, da. of William Briggs of Shoreditch, Mdx., 3s. 1da.
Chairman, Hull Dock Co. 1812.
Thompson, a Wesleyan Methodist stalwart, was a self-made businessman. In an autobiographical fragment he wrote, ‘I had nothing with which to begin the world except a school education suitable to the business of a merchant or banker; and early in my youth, the imprudence of some branches of my family brought upon me the expenses of supporting my mother and two sisters’. He was referring to his father, who died in debt in France. Thompson had been for 14 years a clerk in the Hull Baltic merchant house of Wilberforce and Smith when in 1784 Abel Smith, one of the partners, started a branch of his Nottingham bank at Hull and made him part-time manager. In 1788 he became a partner both in the bank and in the merchant firm. He also joined the partnership of Sykes, Son & Co., the Hull metal merchants, in which Smith had purchased an interest. He borrowed his capital for the mercantile partnership from the Hull bank. He further held shares in the Hull Dock Company. He remained manager of the Hull bank for the rest of his life, assisting also in the supervision of the Smiths’ Lincoln bank. In 1797 he gave evidence before the Commons select committee on the Bank of England.1
Abel Smith’s son Lord Carrington returned Thompson for his borough of Midhurst soon after the election of 1807, when Samuel Smith* chose to sit for Leicester. The Smiths were then attached to Lord Grenville in political opposition and Thompson ‘without restriction’, so he recalled, followed their line; but he was also an associate of and Yorkshire agent for his first employer’s grandson, William Wilberforce*, who in 1808 prompted the nomination of his son Thomas Perronet Thompson as governor of Sierra Leone.2 He was selective in his votes against ministers. On 3 Feb. and 14 Mar. 1808 he was in the minorities against the Copenhagen expedition and the mutiny bill. He then took two leaves of absence. In his first known speech he criticized George Rose’s proposal for a minimum wage for cotton weavers, 19 May 1808. He was in the minorities against the Duke of York, after questioning witnesses at the bar of the House, 15-17 Mar. 1809. He opposed the gaslight bill, 2 June 1809, and commented on the plight of the poorer clergy, 7 June. He voted against ministers on the address and the Scheldt inquiry throughout January-March 1810, and the Whigs listed him ‘present Opposition’. He supported criminal law reform, 1 May, but not parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810. He joined opposition on the Regency proposals, 1 Jan. 1811. Having given evidence (as a member) to the bullion committee on 19 Mar. 1810, he commented adversely on their report, 14 May 1811. In his view the shortfall in exports was to blame for the bullion shortage and he denied that the excessive issue of banknotes had anything to do with it; he warned against ‘untried schemes’ to solve the problem. At that time he was involved in Lord Sidmouth’s negotiations with the Methodists over a bill to license dissenting ministers.3 On 13 Mar. 1812 his proposal to reduce the minimum age for apprenticeship in a local poor bill from 14 to ten years of age was accepted by Romilly, but rejected by the House. On 16 Mar. he obtained leave for a bill to oblige bankrupt Members to resign their seats after six months, as was already the case with Irish Members: it became law on 9 June. He was a spokesman for the country bankers on the paper currency bill, 10 Apr. 1812. He opposed the barracks estimates, 13 Apr., and supported an opposition motion critical of the licence trade under the orders in council, 16 Apr. He also supported the charitable donations registry bill, 29 Apr. 1812. On 4 May he voted for sinecure reform (as also on 29 Mar. 1813). He was absent on sick leave in June 1812.
Thompson had claimed in 1811, ‘[Carrington] has spoiled a very good banker and made a very bad MP’. Yet he retained his seat in 1812 and his colleague James Abercromby*, who was not so lucky, wrote, ‘they [the Smiths] are under great obligations to my colleague who conducts their bank at Hull, and as he makes a point of being returned for Parliament, it is impossible to refuse it’.4 He again paid nothing for his seat, which he took on 8 Feb. 1813. He voted for Catholic relief throughout that session (pairing in favour in 1816). He was a select committeeman and a spokesman for the outports against the East India Company’s trade monopoly, 1, 16 June, 1 July 1813, and voted for Christian missions to India, 22 June, 1 July. He supported the auction duties bill in the hope that it would curtail ‘swindling’ mock auctions, 25 June. On 6 July he forced the chancellor of the Exchequer to admit that the country banks paid three times as much in stamp duties as the Bank of England. He supported the stipendiary curates bill, 5 July, as ‘non residence was a crying evil in this country and had given rise to infidelity, contempt of religion, and numerous other bad consequences’. He supported Romilly’s bid to abolish the law of attainder, 25 Apr. 1814, advocated the repeal of the old apprenticeship laws, 13 May and 9 June, and the better inspection of asylums and prisons, 15 June. He accepted the alteration of the Corn Laws, 18 May 1814 and (after sitting on the select committee on the petitions) 3 Mar. 1815, despite the distress of the agricultural poor, because he did not see why the farmers should not be protected, as the manufacturers were. He saw no reason for a hasty resumption of cash payments by the Bank, 9 Mar. 1815, and was prepared to leave it to the directors’ discretion; but he was a critic of the expense to the public of the Bank, particularly of the interest charged on its advances to government, 16 Feb. 1816.
Thompson approved petitions against the renewal of the property tax, an ‘odious imposition’, 28, 29 Feb. 1816, and advocated its replacement by a loan, 6, 11 Mar. He voted against the Household troops estimates, 13 Mar., and was in the majority against the property tax on 18 Mar. On 20 Mar. he approved the government’s abandonment of it and of the wartime malt duties, assuring them that the people would now more readily pay the other taxes. He advocated cuts in public spending and indirect taxes, combined with a loan, to remedy the revenue deficit, 25 Mar. He gave William Henry Lyttelton* an opening for his campaign against public lotteries by a prefatory motion of 28 Mar. He was not particularly in favour of protective duties in the butter and cheese trade, 29 Mar. On 1 Apr., in the debate on the navy estimates, he claimed that the inferior civil servants were not overpaid, but that the treasurer of the navy (George Rose) was, and asked him to accept a cut in his salary. Next day, however, he approved Rose’s savings bank bill. He was satisfied with the report of the committee on the wool trade, 29 Apr., as it dispelled the graziers’ agitation for higher prices. He favoured inquiry into the leather tax, which was full of anomalies, 9 May. On 1 May, believing the time for the resumption of cash payments by the Bank to be not far distant, he warned against the heresy that the wealth of the country consisted in its supply of money, rather than in its productive labour. He voted for retrenchment, 3 Apr., 6, 7 May, and for Milton’s motion against the unconstitutional use of the military, 13 May 1816. He voted for retrenchment at the Admiralty, 17 and 25 Feb. 1817, and on 26 Feb. voted against the suspension of habeas corpus (not thereafter). On 18 Mar. he stated the moral objections to public lotteries and voted against them then and on 19 May. He was in the minority critical of Canning’s embassy to Lisbon, 6 May 1817. He opposed the ducal marriage grants, 13 and 15 Apr. 1818. He spoke on only three days that session. On 17 Mar. he wished to reserve the use of savings banks for the lower classes, and on 21 Apr. and 1 May he was a critic of the Bank’s prosecution for forgery: if bank-notes were not so easy to imitate that ‘any bungling engraver’ was tempted to it, there would be fewer ‘sanguinary persecutions’. On this forthright note, Thompson ended his parliamentary career: he had complained of declining health in 1814 and did not seek re-election in 1818, though there was a rumour that he would stand at Hull.5
Thompson died at Paris, 14 Sept. 1828, not long after his retirement from business. He estimated that he was then worth £150,000.6