THORNTON, Robert (1759-1826), of Clapham, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



21 July 1785 - 1790
1790 - Mar. 1817

Family and Education

b. 9 Jan. 1759, 2nd s. of John Thornton of Clapham and bro. of Henry and Samuel Thornton.  m. 12 Sept. 1786, Maria, da. of Charles Eyre of Clapham, s.p.

Offices Held

Director, E.I. Co. 1787-8, 1790-3, 1795-8, 1800-3, 1805-8, 1810-13, chairman 1813-14.


Thornton, like his brothers, was a London merchant, and in 1787 was elected to the East India Company directorate on the City interest. In June 1784 he contested Ipswich with Treasury support, but was defeated. In 1785 he was returned unopposed for Bridgwater on the Poulett interest. In the House he voted consistently with Administration. Only two speeches by him are reported in this Parliament: on the commercial treaty with France which he vigorously supported, 21 Feb. 1787, citing Adam Smith, ‘one of the best writers of the age’, and declaring that ‘he spoke as a citizen of the world and had as lief trade with France as any other continental power’. His other speech was on the Declaratory Act for sending four regiments to India: ‘Having taken a decided part as one of the directors, he felt it his duty to account for his conduct ... No corporation of private citizens could assume the government of a country, and he contended for the rightful prerogative of the Crown.’1

He died 16 Mar. 1826.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. Stockdale, x. 298-9; xiii. 294-6.