Henry Thornton (10 March 1760 – 16 January 1815)was an English economist, banker, philanthropist and parliamentarian.
He was the son of John Thornton (1729–1790) of Clapham, London, who had been one of the early patrons of the evangelical movement in Britain. At the age of five, Henry attended the school of Mr Davis at Wandsworth Common, and later with Mr Roberts at Point Pleasant, Wandsworth. From 1778 he was employed in the counting house of his cousin Godfrey Thornton, two years later joining his father's company, where he later became a partner.
In 1784 Thornton joined the banking firm of Down and Free of London, later becoming a partner of the company which became known as Down, Thornton and Free. It was under his direction that this became one of the largest banking firms in London, with regional offices in other British cities.
In 1782 Henry Thornton had been urged to seek a seat in Parliament, and applied to contest one of the two seats for Hull. He soon withdrew on a point of principle, after learning that it was local custom to pay each voter two guineas in order to secure their vote. In September the same year Thornton was elected as member for Southwark, London. Despite lacking popular appeal, and refusing to bribe voters in a similar way to those of Hull, he became respected as a man of morals and integrity.
As an independent MP, Thornton sided with the Pittites, and in 1783 voted for peace with America. In general he tended to support William Pitt, Henry Addington and the Whig administration of William Grenville and Charles Fox. He seldom spoke in the House of Commons, as much of his contribution was in the various parliamentary committees on which he sat. In 1795 he became the treasurer of the committee responsible for the publication of the Cheap Repository Tracts.
He served on committees to examine the public debt (1798), the Irish exchange (1804), public expenditure (1807) and the bullion committee (1810), which scrutinized the high price of gold, foreign exchange, and the state of the British currency. The report of the committee, written by Thornton, argued for the resumption of gold payments in exchange for notes and deposits, which the Bank of England (of which his elder brother, Samuel Thornton, was a director) had suspended in 1797, but the recommendation was not well received at the time, and gold redemption on demand was not restored until 1821. In the next few years he continued to press for these measures to be implemented, publishing two reports in 1811.
This period 1797–1810 was a time of major change and great confusion in the British banking system, and the currency crisis of 1797 led to Thornton's greatest contribution as an economist, for which he is most remembered today. In 1802 he wrote An Enquiry into the Nature and Effects of the Paper Credit of Great Britain , in which he set out to correct common misconceptions, such as the view that the increase in paper credit was the principal cause of the economic ills of the day. This was a work of great importance, and gave a detailed account of the British monetary system as well as a detailed examination of the ways in which the Bank of England should act to counteract fluctuations in the value of the pound.
A successful merchant banker, as a monetary theorist Thornton has been described as the father of the modern central bank. An opponent of the real bills doctrine, he was a defender of the bullionist position and a significant figure in monetary theory, his process of monetary expansion anticipating Knut Wicksell's theory of the Cumulative process. His work on 19th century monetary theory has won praise from present-day economists for his forward-thinking ideas, including Friedrich Hayek, who wrote an introduction to his 'An Enquiry into the Nature and Effects of the Paper Credit of Great Britain', and John Maynard Keynes alike.
Thornton was one of the founders of the Clapham Sect of evangelical reformers and a foremost campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade. A close friend and cousin of William Wilberforce, he is credited with being the financial brain behind their many campaigns for social reform and philanthropic causes which the group supported. For some years Thornton and Wilberforce shared a house called Battersea Rise which Thornton had bought in 1792. The cousins spent much time here co-coordinating their activities and entertaining their friends. After their marriages in 1796–97 they continued to live and work in close proximity for another decade.
In 1791 Thornton played a major part in the establishment of the Sierra Leone Company, which took over the failed attempt by Granville Sharp to create a colony for the settlement of freed slaves in Africa. The company sponsored the voyage to London (1791–93) of the Temne prince John Naimbanna.
As the company's foremost director, Thornton virtually administered the colony as chairman of the company until responsibility was transferred to the Crown in 1808. It was at this time that he became a friend of Zachary Macaulay, who was governor of the colony 1794–99.
In 1802 Thornton was one of the founders of the Christian Observer , the Clapham Sect's journal edited by Zachary Macaulay, to which he contributed many articles. He was also involved in supporting the spread of Christian missionary work, including the founding of the Society for Missions to Africa and the East (later the Church Missionary Society) in 1799, and the British and Foreign Bible Society (now the Bible Society) in 1804, of which he became the first treasurer. A friend of Hannah More, he assisted in the writing and publication of her Cheap Repository tracts. In 1806, Thornton served as Manager of the newly formed London Institution.
He was a pioneer of deaf education, setting up, with Rev John Townsend and Henry Cox Mason, rector of Bermondsey, Britain's first free school for deaf pupils,the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb. Its name and location changed over the centuries; The Royal School for Deaf Children Margate closed in 2015.
In 1796 Thornton married Marianne Sykes (1765–1815), daughter of Joseph Sykes, a merchant from Hull. They had nine children. Both parents died in 1815 and the children were adopted by a family friend, Sir Robert Inglis.The eldest child, Marianne Thornton, was a bluestocking who lived in Clapham for most of her long life. She was the subject of a biography by her cousin, E.M. Forster (1879–1970), the novelist, who was one of Henry Thornton's great-grandchildren. The oldest son, Henry Sykes Thornton (1800–1881), succeeded his father in the banking business, but the firm was merged into Williams Deacon's Bank following the financial crisis of 1825–6. One of the younger daughters, Sophia Thornton, married John Leslie-Melville, 9th Earl of Leven). Another daughter, Isabella, in 1841 married the clergyman Benjamin Harrison who became a Canon of Canterbury and Archdeacon of Maidstone.
Henry Thornton was buried at St Paul's Church, Rectory Grove, Clapham, where a commemorative plaque records the fact, with an additional reference to the family vault nearby. (A selection of photographs is displayed on the website of the school named after him: www.oldthorntoniansclapham.org.uk)
A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is an institution that manages the currency, money supply, and interest rates of a state or formal monetary union, and oversees their commercial banking system. In contrast to a commercial bank, a central bank possesses a monopoly on increasing the monetary base in the state, and also generally controls the printing/coining of the national currency, which serves as the state's legal tender. A central bank also acts as a lender of last resort to the banking sector during times of financial crisis. Most central banks also have supervisory and regulatory powers to ensure the stability of member institutions, to prevent bank runs, and to discourage reckless or fraudulent behavior by member banks.
The Clapham Sect or Clapham Saints were a group of Church of England social reformers based in Clapham, London, at the beginning of the 19th century.
Clapham is a district of south-west London lying mostly within the London Borough of Lambeth, but with some areas extending into the neighbouring London Borough of Wandsworth.
James Stephen was the principal English lawyer associated with the abolitionist movement. Stephen was born in Poole, Dorset; the family home later being removed to Stoke Newington. He married twice and was the father of Sir James Stephen and grandfather of Sir James Fitzjames Stephen and Sir Leslie Stephen and great-grandfather of Virginia Woolf.
Zachary Macaulay was a Scottish statistician, one of the founders of London University and of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, an antislavery activist, and governor of Sierra Leone, the British colony for freed slaves. Like his famous son Thomas Macaulay, he divided the world into civilisation and barbarism with Britain representing the high point of civilisation because of its adherence to Christianity. He worked endlessly to end the slave trade and to Christianize and improve the world.
Thomas Gisborne was an English Anglican priest and poet. He was a member of the Clapham Sect, who fought for the abolition of the slave trade in England.
A lender of last resort (LOLR) is the institution in a financial system that acts as the provider of liquidity to a financial institution which finds itself unable to obtain sufficient liquidity in the interbank lending market and other facilities or sources have been exhausted. It is, in effect, a government guarantee of liquidity to financial institutions. Since the beginning of the 20th century, most central banks have been providers of lender of last resort facilities, and their functions usually also include ensuring liquidity in the financial market in general. The objective is to prevent economic disruption as a result of financial panics and bank runs spreading from one bank to the next from a lack of liquidity in one. Different definitions of the lender of last resort exist in literature. A comprehensive one is that it is "the discretionary provision of liquidity to a financial institution by the central bank in reaction to an adverse shock which causes an abnormal increase in demand for liquidity which cannot be met from an alternative source".
Edward James Eliot was an English Member of Parliament.
Thomas Raikes was a British merchant particularly trading from London with Russia, a banker and newspaper proprietor. Notably, he was Governor of the Bank of England during the 1797 currency crisis, when the Bank was prohibited by the British Government from paying out in gold.
John Thornton (1720–1790) was a British merchant and Christian philanthropist.
Charles Grant, was a British politician influential in Indian and domestic affairs who, motivated by his evangelical Christianity, championed the causes of social reform and Christian mission, particularly in India. He served as Chairman of the British East India Company, and as a member of parliament (MP), and was an energetic member of the Clapham Sect. The "Clapham Sect" were a group of social activists who spoke out about the moral imperative to end slavery. Henry Thornton founder of the Clapham sect regarded Grant as his closest friend, after Wilberforce, and Grant had a house on Henry's estate at Battersea Rise before he moved to Russell Square.
Samuel Thornton was one of the sons of John Thornton, a leading merchant in the Russian and Baltic trade, and was a director of the Bank of England for 53 years and Governor (1799–1801). He had earlier served as its Deputy Governor. He was Member of Parliament (MP) for Kingston upon Hull from 1784 to 1806 and for Surrey from 1807 to 1812. He and was a member of the Committee for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts.
The Panic of 1825 was a stock market crash that started in the Bank of England, arising in part out of speculative investments in Latin America, including the imaginary country of Poyais. The crisis was felt most acutely in Britain, where it precipitated the closing of six London banks and sixty country banks in England, but was also manifest in the markets of Europe, Latin America, and the United States. An infusion of gold reserves from the Banque de France saved the Bank of England from complete collapse.
The Cheap Repository Tracts consisted of more than two hundred moral, religious and occasionally political tracts issued in a number of series between March 1795 and 1817, and subsequently re-issued in various collected editions until the 1830s. They were devised by Hannah More and intended for sale or distribution to literate poor people, as an alternative to what she regarded as the immoral traditional broadside ballad and chapbook publications. The tracts proved to be enormously successful with more than two million copies sold or distributed during the first year of the scheme.
The Christian Observer was a London evangelical periodical, serving a readership in the Church of England. It appeared from 1802 to 1874.
John Venn was a priest of the Church of England and a central figure of the group of religious philanthropists known as the Clapham sect.
Rivington, or Rivington's, also called Rivington & Co., was a London-based publishing company founded by Charles Rivington (1688–1742), originally from Derbyshire, and continued by his sons and grandsons.
An Enquiry into the Nature and Effects of the Paper Credit of Great Britain, generally shortened to Paper Credit, is a book on monetary theory in economics, written by Henry Thornton and published in Britain in 1802. It is seen as prescient of modern monetary problems, having addressed paper currency, risk of inflation, and other issues that were appearing as certificates began to displace gold as currency in early 19th century Britain.
John Townsend was a Congregationalist minister, and founder of the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, the first public institution in England for deaf children.
Marianne Thornton was an English Human rights activist, who campaigned for the abolition of slavery.
|Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Henry Thornton (reformer) .|
|Parliament of Great Britain|
Sir Richard Hotham
| Member of Parliament for Southwark |
1782 – 1800
With: Sir Richard Hotham to 1784
Sir Barnard Turner 1784
Paul Le Mesurier 1784–1796
George Woodford Thellusson 1796
George Tierney from 1796
Parliament of the United Kingdom
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Parliament of Great Britain
| Member of Parliament for Southwark |
1801 – 1815
With: George Tierney to 1806
Sir Thomas Turton, Bt 1806–1812
Charles Calvert from 1812