Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 16: Henry Thornton (1760–1815)
Henry Thornton (1760–1815) was a banker, philanthropist, Evangelical, one of the founders of the Clapham Sect and the treasurer of several evangelist societies, a politician and an economist. From a rich merchant family, he left his studies and began his career as a banker at the age of 18, in 1778. In 1784, he joined a private bank whose name became Down, Thornton and Free. This bank experienced difficulties from 1810 on and was close to bankruptcy in 1815, the year of Thornton’s death. Henry should not be confused with his brothers: Robert, Governor of the East India Company, and Samuel, Governor of the Bank of England from 1799 to 1801. From 1782 until 1815, Henry sat in Parliament as an independent MP. He argued for progressive income tax and the abolition of the slave trade. He supported the younger William Pitt (1783–1806) and distinguished himself in banking and monetary debates. In 1797 and 1802, he argued in favour of the suspension of gold payments on Bank of England notes. In 1803 and 1804 he played a leading role in the debate on the Irish currency question. In 1810 he was appointed chairman of the Bullion Committee, together with Francis Horner, a Whig, and William Huskisson, a Tory. In 1802, Thornton published An Enquiry into the Nature and Effects of the Paper Credit of Great Britain (Thornton 1802 ). Translations in French and German were published the following year. An American edition came out in Philadelphia in 1807....
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