COOKE, Sir Thomas (? c.1648-1709), of Lordshold, Hackney, Mdx.; Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, and Fenchurch Street, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



19 Nov. 1694 - 1695
1698 - 1705

Family and Education

b. ?c.1648, s. of Thomas Cooke of Lambeth Marsh, Surr.  educ. adm. and called L. Inn 1694 (hon.)  m. 7 Feb. 1672, Elizabeth Horne of Exeter, 2s. 4da.  Kntd. 15 Sept. 1690.1

Offices Held

Appr. Goldsmiths’ Co. 1664, freeman 1672, rentor 1689, prime warden 1691; cttee. E.I. Co. 1683–90, 1695–6, 1698–1700, 1702–4, 1706–8, dep. gov. 1690–2, 1694–5, gov. 1692–4, 1700–2, 1704–6, 1708–9, manager, united trade 1702–8; asst. Royal African Co. 1690–2, 1701–2, 1705–9, sub. gov. 1703–4; cttee. Royal Fishery Co. of Ire. 1691; member, New England Co. ?1680.2

Alderman, London, 1692–d., sheriff 1692; vice-pres. Hon. Artillery Co. 1704–7; col. blue regiment 1702–7; freeman, Colchester 1694.3

Commr. Million Act 1694, taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.4


Cooke was known as the ‘dictator’ of the Old East India Company on account of his autocratic and domineering style of administration as its governor, and his name became a byword for corruption and bribery. Yet he had risen to this position of wealth and influence from obscure and humble origins. The son of a hat maker, he was born about 1648 (assuming that he was 16 at the time of his apprenticeship), and first made his fortune as a goldsmith and banker, establishing himself between 1675 and 1684 at the Griffin in Exchange Alley in partnership with Nicholas Carey*, with whom he also owned property at Hackney. He was elected as prime warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company in 1691, but presided over only half of the company’s courts that year, preferring instead to foster his career in the East India Company, of which he had been elected a committeeman in 1683 and deputy-governor in 1690. He supplied it with bullion, but also traded in saltpetre, fabrics, chinaware and turmeric, and rapidly amassed a fortune: by 1689 he held £12,000 of stock, and in January 1691 Cooke, lately knighted, married off his daughter, with a £25,000 portion, to Sir Josiah Child, 2nd Bt.*, whose father was the company’s largest single shareholder. ‘He thrives prodigiously’, noted one contemporary in 1691, when he owned £40,850 of stock. A year later he was rich enough to lend £15,000 to the government while still accepting a bill of £100,000 from Dutch merchants without experiencing serious cash-flow problems. By the end of 1692 he was even in a position to offer to farm the land tax for £3 million. Having fought, bought and married his way into a dominant position within the East India Company it always remained his deepest concern, but he nevertheless reduced his investments towards the end of his life, selling £30,000 of his holdings in 1700 alone, and by 1703–4 he held only £14,000 in stock.5

Apart from the East India Company, Cooke’s other main sphere of influence was the City of London. In May 1690 he was nominated ‘by the Church party’ as sheriff, and although defeated on this occasion he was successful in 1692, having been chosen alderman of Queenhithe ward earlier in the year. He ostentatiously ‘laid by £10,000 to spend in his shrievalty’ and, no doubt hoping to capitalize on this purchase of goodwill, the Tories put him up as a mayoral candidate in 1693 with Sir Jonathan Raymond*, only to see him trail last in the poll, a defeat only partly compensated for by his being chosen an honorary bencher of Lincoln’s Inn in February 1694. In 1700, having once more briefly contemplated standing himself, Sir Thomas joined with fellow alderman and East Indiaman Sir Francis Child*, who had been won over by the Tories, to back (Sir) Charles Duncombe’s* candidature in the mayoral election. Cooke remained a supporter of Duncombe the following year, but just before the election Sir Thomas and six other East Indies merchants had caused a minor stir at common council by opposing the City’s address against Louis XIV’s recognition of the Pretender, on the far-fetched grounds that the French king might regard it as a declaration of war and seize English ships; but the Prussian ambassador remarked that since this suggestion came from people ‘qui ont fait profession constante de Jacobitisme’ little attention had been paid to them and the Whigs’ address had been agreed on. Although Cooke could be ignored in 1701 when the Whigs were in the ascendancy in London, he benefited from their purge in 1702, being appointed colonel of the City’s blue regiment. The following year he was up for election as mayor again, but James Craggs* observed that the ‘Summerites’ were all for Sir John Parsons*, who shared political influence at Reigate with Lord Somers (Sir John*), and Cooke lost it. His election as mayor the following year was nevertheless much easier than Craggs had predicted, since Sir Thomas was the senior alderman and regarded as ‘a gentleman who will support that dignity with great honour and magnificence’. The obstacle to his holding office was only a self-imposed one, ‘not being able to go through the great fatigue of the lord mayoralty, because of his great indisposition’. By taking the unprecedented step of asking to be excused on health grounds, even though he was fit enough to serve as governor of the East India Company, he gave a snubbing demonstration of his priorities and the City proceeded to a new election.6

Cooke’s early career is difficult to reconstruct, partly because his name makes positive identification difficult. He was sometimes confused with Thomas Coke, MP for Derbyshire, and it is difficult to establish his relationship, if any, to the Thomas Cooke of Hackney, whose sons Charles and James later sat as MPs, the latter owning land in Epsom in Surrey where Sir Thomas also owned an estate. A John Cooke of Hackney, who first sat as a committeeman of the East India Company at the same time as Sir Thomas, may have been his brother, though later references to John in the company records may refer to Sir Thomas’ son of that name. It may also have been a namesake who contested Truro in March 1681, though it does seem to have been the goldsmith Cooke who took his family to Holland on private business in April of that year. If so, he may have returned soon after since it is possible that he was the ‘Cook’ who played a vital role in Algernon Sidney’s trial in 1683 by identifying the latter’s handwriting, thereby establishing proof of Sidney’s authorship of the manuscript treatise being used as evidence against him: the testimony was given alongside that of a Mr ‘Cary’ (possibly Cooke’s goldsmith and banking partner) and related to Sidney’s hand to bills of exchange, with which Cooke and Carey would naturally have dealt. If it was the future MP who testified, he kept an unusually low profile in the ensuing years of Tory reaction, making his mark only after the Revolution by unsuccessfully contesting Southwark with the Tory Sir Peter Rich† in 1690, and by donating £1,500 that spring for the relief of fugitive Irish and French Protestants, with a further £500 in the autumn to finance the repatriation of the Irish. The same year he was elected an assistant of the Royal African Company, and, more importantly, sub-governor of the East India Company, a position that earned him his knighthood and prepared him for the governorship in 1692.7

By 1694 Cooke had achieved all his ambitions: having been elected sheriff of London that year, he was brought in at a by-election at Colchester, possibly through the influence of the Childs. Yet within a year the bubble of his success had burst and he found himself in the Tower, temporarily unable to trade and castigated by Parliament for corruption. The roots of this crisis lay in his zealous, some thought over-zealous, protection of the Old Company against interlopers, whose challenge of the monopoly had begun in earnest after the Revolution. In December 1691 Cooke and other leading East Indiamen had attended the Commons to satisfy MPs about their ability to fund the trade, which was to be newly regulated. Sir Thomas himself had been prepared to act as security for £100,000 of stock, and throughout January 1692 had acted as spokesman for the Company, finally conveying to the House on 4 Feb. its rejection of the securities that had been demanded. MPs had responded two days later by passing a resolution to address the King to dissolve the Old Company and establish a new one, although it had been saved from immediate ruin by the provision in its charter of three years’ notice before any revocation. Another bill along the same lines as that of 1691 had been introduced in November 1692, and when this had met with further obstruction from the company the House had passed an address on 25 Feb. 1693 asking the King to give the requisite notice. It seems to have been at this stage that Sir Josiah Child† had learnt of ‘a committee of 25 persons, that sat de die in diem to destroy the company’, and had shared his apprehensions with Cooke who, it later emerged, had consequently sought to buy off a number of the most prominent interlopers, including Sir Basil Firebrace*, and their supporters, distributing over £80,000 of ‘private service’ money in 1693 alone.8

In the short term this policy had been successful, for on the eve of the parliamentary session the King had granted a new charter, which Cooke presented to the House on 30 Dec., and on 6 Jan. 1694 Sir Thomas showed MPs that subscriptions since then had totalled £744,000. But although the immediate prize had been won, it had only been gained at the cost of greater hostility on the part of those interlopers who had resisted the enticements, as a vote on 19 Jan. showed, and at the cost of mounting suspicions, even among some of the Old Company, that funds had been misappropriated. In what can be seen as a power struggle within the company, its general court initiated on 14 Nov. 1694 an internal inquiry, headed by Sir Benjamin Bathurst*, which produced a report on 12 Mar. 1695 that was highly critical of Cooke’s management, and condemned the ‘irregular’ payments that had been made to Firebrace. This fuelled speculation that money had ‘gone among the Members of the House of Commons’ to obtain a new charter, especially when ‘it was observed that some of the hottest sticklers against the company did insensibly not only fall off from that heat, but turned to serve the company, as much as they had at first endeavoured to destroy it’. Since such converts included Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, and the Duke of Leeds (Sir Thomas Osborne†), and ‘nothing was so likely to convince the people of England of the wicked designs of the Tory faction, as showing what mercenary creatures they were’, there was also a strong political motive in pursuing the allegations of corruption in Parliament. Hon. Thomas Wharton* ‘got complaints against several Members for taking of bribes to be given into the House, who upon hearing of them appointed a committee’, largely composed of Country Whigs and ‘mortal enemies of the Duke of Leeds’, to inspect the East India Company’s books. Cooke found himself the focus of the bribery charges when Paul Foley I* reported the committee’s findings on 12 Mar. 1695, revealing largely what the Company’s own investigation had discovered, namely that three huge payments, two of over £20,000 and one of £30,000, had been made to unknown persons between April 1693 and January 1694; that this ‘was a new course since Sir Thomas Cooke came to be deputy governor or governor’; that five MPs, Sir Samuel Dashwood, Sir John Fleet, John Perry, Sir Joseph Herne and Cooke, had been present when these were sanctioned; and that Sir Thomas had refused to reveal who had received the money, even to fellow committeemen of the company, claiming that he was bound by oath to keep its secrets. Sir Basil Firebrace did, however, admit to the committee that he had used some of the money to win over to the company interlopers like himself, and Members also learned that Sir Edward Seymour’s friend, Thomas Coulson*, had been granted an extraordinarily favourable saltpetre contract. Although L’Hermitage reported on 22 Mar. that several MPs understood Cooke’s reluctance to make any revelations and that the matter might not therefore be pushed further, Cooke was ordered on 26 Mar. to give an account of how some £87,342 had been spent. He refused, and did so in such an antagonistic manner that MPs, already riled by Sir Thomas’ friends ‘disant perpetuellement qu’il ne craignoit rien’, sent him to the Tower until a bill could be brought in to force him to declare what he knew. This allowed Sir Thomas until 1 June to give his information, or face disablement from holding any office, and imposed heavy financial penalties. Cooke was to have been brought immediately before the House for questioning, but one Member pointed out that if he spoke without some legal measure against him he would have to be allowed to take his seat again. He was therefore sent back to the Tower unheard and the bill against him was presented on 28 Mar. and rushed through the Commons, despite a protesting petition submitted by Cooke on the 30th. On 6 Apr. the bill was sent up to the Lords, who heard Cooke’s counsel, Sir Thomas Powys*, succinctly state his client’s dilemma: ‘by his office he is under a trust; and by this bill he is to disclose his trust and destroy the company’, though many suspected the less principled reason for hesitation was that Cooke had embezzled large amounts of the money himself. The following day Cooke was examined by the Lords and, in a histrionic performance that included weeping, declared himself ‘ready and very willing’ to make a discovery if he received indemnity from ‘all actions and suits, except the East India Company, whom, if he had injured, he would be bound to undergo the greatest rigour’. The Upper House clearly felt that Sir Thomas might make the necessary revelations if treated with greater leniency than his colleagues in the Commons had been prepared to show, and resolved to proceed instead with a bill offering the indemnity, though Cooke very nearly lost this concession when he informed the peers via ‘a reverend prelate who appeared zealous for him’ that it would be three or four months before he was in a position to give a full account. Seeing the furious reaction of several lords angered by his ‘trifling and prevaricating’, Sir Thomas hurriedly ‘engaged to discover within a fortnight’, though in the end he was only allowed a week. The indemnity bill received the Royal Assent on 22 Apr. when William warned that he would end the session in a few days, and on 23 Apr. a joint committee set about examining Cooke, who tried to spin out proceedings by submitting a written account that the committee found unsatisfactory. It had been reported ‘qu’il avoit parlé en secret que tant qu’il pourroit il ne feroit aucune découverte, mais que s’il étoit poussé à bout il declareroit tout, ne voulant être victime pour personne’, but under further questioning he showed that he was prepared to shelter the Company by drawing all the fire on himself. He revealed only that £10,000 had been paid to the King, funded by himself as a well-timed traditional gift, and that the same sum had been paid, for the purposes of influencing MPs, to Richard Acton, whose information he must have hoped would be of limited value since a fall had left the go-between ‘distracted’. However, in the event Acton did testify that Henry Goldwell* and two later MPs, James Craggs and Paul Docminique, had received money. Annoyed by Cooke’s ‘vapouring’ evidence, MPs sent him back to the Tower and turned instead to Firebrace’s more interesting confession. Sir Basil admitted that three payments of £10,000 had been made to Sir John Trevor*, Seymour, and Henry Guy*, and that he had paid 5,000 guineas to Charles Bates, a friend of the lord president, because Cooke had feared that the new charter ‘stuck with the Duke of Leeds’. Here was the smoking gun that the promoters of the investigation had been looking for. Leeds had already twice drawn attention to himself, first on 6 Apr. by speaking ‘vehemently’ against the Commons’ bill against Sir Thomas, when he had ‘introduced what he was about to say with a solemn protestation of his [own] cleanness and innocence’, and second, a week later, when he urged that Cooke should clear all the lords of taking money. Although proof that he had pocketed the money was not clear-cut, Leeds had panicked and had clumsily offered on 23 Apr. to return the money to Sir Thomas, ‘who did scruple to take his money back at first but did afterwards consent to it’, an offer that subsequently became public knowledge. On 24 and 27 Apr. the Commons heard reports of, and debated, the witnesses’ examinations and on 29 Apr. voted to impeach Leeds, thereby effectively ending the latter’s ministerial career. That same day the Commons, which by now had a very thin attendance, rejected Cooke’s plea for the benefit of the indemnity bill and instead read a bill to keep him and the other witnesses in custody. On 30 Apr. an amendment was debated to release all but Cooke on bail, but the two Houses were unable to agree and the clause was eventually rejected. Having made an unsuccessful appeal to the Lords, in which he protested that the bill to imprison him took away ‘all his credit and reputation, which is as dear to him as his life’ and that ‘if he had seven years’ time he could make no further discovery’, Sir Thomas found himself at the prorogation confined to the Tower until the end of the next session. His desire for release evidently concentrated his memory, since on 28 Aug. he sent a letter to the commission of accounts asking them to examine him fully, and telling them that, while he had the satisfaction of knowing that what he had done ‘was faithfully designed for the benefit of the East India Company, and the preserving the trade of the nation’, his plight ‘had a natural tendency to the utter ruin’ of himself and his family. Since examining him would have reopened the old sores, the commission resolved, by a single vote, not to proceed, largely because Robert Harley* and Paul Foley I* no longer wished to pursue the matter, though ostensibly because it was a parliamentary concern. It had in fact already become a national one, with copies of Cooke’s examination being printed so that ‘patriots’ could read ‘how the country may be bought and sold by those which should preserve us’.9

The lengthy investigation into what one MP described as ‘a blemish if not a scandal to the Revolution itself’ had important consequences for national politics. It had successfully smeared a number of leading Tories, including Cooke, and produced a resolution on 2 May that offering bribes to any Member was a high crime and misdemeanour. Moreover, since MPs had deliberately delayed supply bills to prevent William from declaring a prorogation before they had had an opportunity to question Sir Thomas, the King was reluctant to risk reassembling them and therefore dissolved Parliament on 11 Oct. 1695. Despite his continued imprisonment and sullied reputation Cooke ‘was invited to stand for Colchester, having been a benefactor there’, and came remarkably close to being re-elected. Indeed on one of the three polls taken he had a majority, and Luttrell at first recorded the election as a victory for him; but the mayor had returned Sir John Morden, 1st Bt., against whom Cooke petitioned on 29 Nov. 1695, and the House decided in favour of Morden on 28 Mar. 1696. A month later Parliament was prorogued and Cooke duly regained his freedom, but the next two years were to be the nadir of his career, without even a place on the East India Company’s committee. In 1697 he sold his Hackney manor, on which he had lavished £3,000 to improve the garden, and, just when he must have thought that the corruption scandal had died down, proceedings in the Commons on 5 May 1698 threatened to revive it. Following an offer by the Company to loan £700,000 in return for exclusive trading rights, it was moved, with the express intention of resurrecting ‘the remembrance of what the company was formerly guilty of’, to read the letter which Cooke had written in 1695 to the accounts commission. On 6 May this was opened, but was found to contain ‘nothing to satisfy anyone’s curiosity, since there were no particulars in it but what was known and talked of before’, though James Sloane* wanted to use the occasion to ‘fall on’ Leeds again. The letter was referred to committee on 2 June, with Cooke being summoned to attend, and although it was not pursued there were further ominous investigations that month into the company’s business activities. But although his fortunes were low during 1696–8 Cooke was irrepressible. In May 1696 his financial expertise was evidently considered too important for him not to be appointed to the committee for negotiating the land bank with the Treasury, and he used the opportunity to restore some confidence in his abilities, emerging in his favourite role as the group’s spokesman. Nor did he neglect his own interests, submitting a petition in December 1696 that Sir John Fenwick† owed him £3,000, which he successfully requested to be paid out of the latter’s forfeited estate. Moreover, in 1698 he regained a place on his company’s ruling body, and in June of that year was in a position to subscribe £2,000 for the service of the government, a tenth of the Company’s proposed loan.10

When Parliament was dissolved in July 1698 Cooke felt confident enough to stand again at Colchester, and was this time elected without a contest. Although marked as a Court supporter on a comparative list of old and new MPs, he was forecast as a likely opponent of a standing army, and duly found himself in the incongruous position of supporting the Country Whigs in January 1699 in their attempt to limit the number of troops, speaking twice in debates on the disbanding bill. During the Parliament’s lifetime he also presented a bill on 27 Jan. 1700 for prolonging the time for prohibiting the export of corn, and acted as teller on 8 Feb. in favour of an adjournment of the debate about the bill hindering papists from disinheriting their Protestant heirs. It was nevertheless as a champion of the Old East India Company that Cooke primarily acted. After the interlopers’ success in 1698 in obtaining parliamentary and Court recognition, the Old Company sought confirmation in 1699 of the 21-year term of its 1693 charter, and on 27 Feb. 1699 Sir Thomas acted as teller, with Francis Gwyn*, on a successful motion for leave to bring in such a bill. Cooke was appointed to the committee to prepare and introduce it, though John Cooke, MP for Arundel and possibly a relative of Sir Thomas, presented the bill on 3 Mar. It was supported by ‘those who were for distressing the government’, but was defeated at its second reading six days later, when Sir Thomas acted as teller in favour of its commitment. Undeterred by this temporary setback Sir Thomas and John Cooke were again active on the company’s behalf when MPs reassembled for the second session, being granted leave on 19 Jan. 1700 to bring in a bill for continuing the Old Company. Sir Thomas had become its principal defender after the death in June 1699 of Sir Josiah Child, and proved an able leader, since on 9 Feb. the bill to reincorporate the company for the remainder of its 1693 charter was ordered to be engrossed. He also acted as teller on 4 Apr. against an amendment to a bill adding duties on East Indies commodities and, despite his losing a Chancery action against the crown over disputed pepper exports, the year marked his restoration to power and influence with re-election to the company’s governorship. Not surprisingly Cooke was categorized in early 1700 as being in the East India Company interest.11

Cooke’s re-election as the Company’s governor could hardly have come at a more important time. In December 1700 he was able to inform Secretary Vernon (James I*) that the Old Company had resolved to join with the New if ‘it may be effected upon just and honourable terms’. However, by January 1701 it was reported that he had rejected all proposals made thus far as unsatisfactory, a degree of obstruction to the King’s wishes that caused Bonet to refer to him as a Jacobite, a charge no doubt made more credible by the financial connexion with his Hackney friend Sir John Freind† that Cooke had revealed the previous session when petitioning for the repayment of debt. Sir Thomas was again returned to Parliament at the first election of 1701 and in the ensuing session was mainly active on the Company’s behalf. He was predicted in February as likely to support the Court in agreeing with the committee of supply’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’, and on 28 Apr. presented to the committee concerned with ways of redeeming the public debt a proposal from the Old Company to pay the £2 million advanced by the New. This was not debated until 17 May when it was ‘ordered to lie on the table, lest, if it should pass, it should destroy the public credit’. Cooke was re-elected as governor in April 1701, with Sir Samuel Dashwood as his deputy, and over the next few months the two men headed the Old Company’s delegation for negotiating terms of union with the New, although John Dolben* feared that they would place their private interests first. Agreement was nevertheless reached in December 1701, and from 1702 until the formal union of 1709 the trade was under a joint management committee, of which Cooke was naturally a member.12

The dissolution of the short-lived 1701 Parliament forced Cooke to seek re-election at Colchester. The experience was not a comfortable one, since the corporation had received a letter from Sir Thomas Abney* which vilified Sir Thomas’ activities as a London alderman, and although Cooke was in fact elected without a contest the matter was observed to have created ‘ill blood’. He was listed with the Tories in an analysis made by Robert Harley in December, and on 26 Feb. 1702 favoured the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachment of the King’s ministers, no doubt eager to join any condemnation that encompassed the New Company’s patron Charles Montagu*, now Lord Halifax. However, he was a teller only once, on 17 Apr. 1702, in a very thin House of 47 MPs, on an amendment to the supply bill which related to the East India Company’s saltpetre contract with the Crown. Soon after, on 27 Apr., the Company voted him a free gift of £12,000 ‘for his good services’ as governor when he temporarily stepped down from the post.13

Blacklisted as having opposed the preparations for war with France during the previous year, Cooke stood at the election in August 1702 with John Potter, Colchester’s Tory mayor. Potter was unsuccessful and petitioned against the return of the Whig Sir Isaac Rebow, who in turn fostered a petition against Cooke’s election, though this was rejected by the Commons on 21 Nov. Cooke’s chief concern during the subsequent sessions was once more with the East India Company. He obtained special leave on 4 Feb. 1703 to bring in a bill for prolonging the time for exporting foreign goods, and on 14 Jan. 1704 presented to the House an account of the bullion exported by the Company. He was forecast by Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) in mid-March as a likely supporter in the event of a parliamentary attack on him over his handling of the Scotch Plot. Despite his reputation as a staunch Churchman, Cooke was nevertheless listed in October as a probable opponent of the Tack, and on 28 Nov. either voted against the measure or was absent from the House, possibly in order to ingratiate himself with the government. At a local level, however, Cooke had become drawn into Colchester corporation’s internal feuding when in 1703 he opposed Rebow’s campaign for election as the borough’s high steward. The Tories, led by John Potter, nominated the Prince of Denmark instead, and Cooke, coming to the aid of his former running-mate, twice waited on Prince George to inform him of the borough’s inclinations. Rebow had not forgotten this opposition by the time of the 1705 election, and the Whigs secured both seats, Cooke being defeated by Edward Bullock, another East Indiaman with marital ties to the Child family but one who had deserted the Tories. When Bullock died, only a few months later, Sir Thomas contested the vacant seat, but local animosities still worked against him. Defeated at the poll, Cooke petitioned on 10 Jan. 1706 against the return of Sir Thomas Webster*, complaining that the mayor had made a large number of Webster’s supporters freemen so that they could vote in the election. His petition was accompanied by another, which supported his case, from some of the borough’s inhabitants, and the latter was resubmitted on 11 Dec. 1706, only to be rejected on 10 Feb. 1707, while Cooke’s own petition seems never to have been pursued.14

The defeat left him free to devote his energies to the affairs of the company. In September 1707 he was warned by Lord Treasurer Godolphin about the company’s large-scale purchase of silver for export, reminding a man who surely was in little need of such advice that ‘a great many’ MPs were hostile to the company; and the following year Cooke defended Thomas Pitt I*’s position, and was active in negotiations about union. Although these talks proved fruitful they also provoked a feud between him and (Sir) Gilbert Heathcote*, who headed the New Company’s interest, a rivalry that came to a head in the election for governor of the United Company for 1709. Preparations for the contest had started the previous autumn when ‘both sides had begun to put in practice all possible arts and contrivances to promote their interests’, and John Dolben believed in October 1708 that

Sir Thomas would have been too hard for Sir Gilbert, having all the party of the Old [Company] to a man secure to him . . . but a fatal accident has given a terrible blow to all those designs. The last week poor Sir Thomas was seized all at once with a violent fit of apoplexy or palsy, I think both, and though ’tis hoped his life is not at present in danger, yet I much fear he will never recover his limbs or understanding, so as never to be a man of business again; he was the very soul of the Old Company, and I conclude without him they cannot so much as make a stand, but that unless he recovers his vigour before the election the majority will certainly fall on the other side, and new measures will be taken all over India.

Although Cooke continued to live for almost another year it was evidently only in an incapacitated state since he was unable to attend the company’s meetings, and he failed to draw up a detailed will. It is one of the ironies of his career that Cooke’s forceful style of management, intended to maintain the company’s strength, had in fact left it weakened and unable to throw up a new leadership after him. On 18 Jan. 1709 Dolben wrote that Cooke’s collapse had

entirely broke the power and interest of the Old Company. He was so absolute a dictator that upon his fall they were all in confusion, and had neither spirit or knowledge to keep themselves any longer in a united body, but gave way in all contests to the superiority of the New.

He suffered a second and fatal fit of apoplexy on 6 Sept. 1709, leaving his son John and wife as executors of his undefined property, though it is known that he had bought estates in 1692 in Hertfordshire, in 1705 at Epsom, Surrey, and in America.15

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Mark Knights


  • 1. Info. from M. Havlik and Dr D. F. Lemmings; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 434; London Mar. Lic. (Index Lib. lxvi), 23.
  • 2. Info. from M. Havlik and Prof. H. Horwitz; K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 380; W. Kellaway, New England Co. 292.
  • 3. Beaven, Aldermen of London, ii. 118; Oath Bk . . . of Colchester ed. W. G. Benham (1907), 248.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 552; CJ, xii. 508.
  • 5. Le Neve’s Knights, 434; C 110/28, John Dolben* to Thomas Pitt I, 20 Oct. 1708, 18 Jan. 1709; Huntington Lib. Ellesmere mss 9930, satire; A. Heal, The London Goldsmith, 129; info. from M. Havlik; Add. 22185, ff. 12, 53; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 192, 395, 404; Hereford and Worcester RO (Hereford), Foley mss, box E12/F/IV, Richard Normansell to [–], 12 Mar. 1690; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1653; Bodl. Rawl. D.747, ff. 268, 276; Rawl. A.303, ff. 56–57.
  • 6. Luttrell, 47, 357, 493, 590; iii. 194–6; v. 193, 343; Beaven, i. 195; info. from Dr Lemmings; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26 (1–2), James Brydges’* diary, 13 Aug. 1700; Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Osborn coll. Blathwayt mss, box 20, Robert Yard* to William Blathwayt*, 2 Oct. 1701; Univ. Kansas Spencer Research Lib. Moore mss 143Cc, Craggs to Arthur Moore*, 29 Sept. 1703; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletters 28, 30 Sept. 1704.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1680–1, p. 233; Luttrell, i. 290; ii. 112; Beaven, i. 303; Foley mss, box E12/F/IV, Richard Normansell to [–], 12 Mar. 1690.
  • 8. Luttrell Diary, 90–93, 96, 118, 158; Cobbett, Parlty Hist. v. 915, 929; Jnl. Brit. Studies, xvii (2), p. 5.
  • 9. Debates and Proceedings 1694–5; Burnet, iv. 260; Wharton Mems. 24; Ailesbury Mems. 349; Add. 17677 PP, ff. 202, 210, 220, 233–4, 253–4; HMC Lords 1693–5, pp. 548–51, 573; Cobbett, v. 911–3, 917, 921, 927; Lexington Pprs. 81; CSP Dom. 1695, pp. 324–5; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. William III, 156; Portledge Pprs. 204.
  • 10. Cobbett, v. 931; Add. 17677 PP, f. 237; 70155, list of ‘recommended’ lottery commissioners; Norris Pprs. 27; Essex Review, ii. 226; Luttrell, iv. 51; W. Robinson, Hist. of Hackney (1842), i. 200, 304; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 227; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/25, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 7 May 1698; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 17, 26, 30, 35; CSP Dom. 1696, pp. 259, 456.
  • 11. Cam. Misc. xxix. 381, 387; Cocks Diary, 19–20.
  • 12. English Post, 27–30 Dec. 1700; Add. 30000 E, f. 9; 70284, Ld. Godolphin (Sidney†) to Robert Harley, 22 Aug. 1701; CJ, xii. 675; Luttrell, v. 51; Post Boy, 29 Apr.–1 May 1701; C 110/28 John Dolben to Thomas Pitt I, 19 July 1701; Jnl. Brit. Studies, xvii (2), pp. 16–17.
  • 13. Add. 70075, newsletter 27 Nov. 1701; Luttrell, v. 168.
  • 14. Wharton Mems. 23; Rawl. C.441, ff. 1–2, ‘Case of the Town of Colchester’ [1703]; L. C. Bullock, Mem. of Fam. Bullock (1905), 38.
  • 15. C 110/28, Dolben to Pitt, 1 Mar. 1708, 20 Oct. 1708; Thomas Marshall to Pitt, 23 Jan. 1708; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxi. 44; xxii. 41, 44; Newdigate newsletter 14 Oct. 1708; Luttrell, vi. 364; Add. 70420, Dyer’s newsletter 8 Sept. 1709; PCC 240 Lane; D. W. Jones, War and Econ. 330; CJ, xiv. 522; Luttrell, v. 82.