James Wilson (businessman)
|The Right Honourable
|A portrait of James Wilson by Sir John Wilson Gordon, published in The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843–1993. The portrait was presented to Mrs Wilson in 1859, by the Royal Scottish Academy.|
|Financial Secretary to the Treasury|
5 January 1853 – 21 February 1858
|Prime Minister||The Earl of Aberdeen
The Viscount Palmerston
|Preceded by||George Alexander Hamilton|
|Succeeded by||George Alexander Hamilton|
Vice-President of the Board of Trade
18 June 1859 – 12 August 1859
|Prime Minister||The Viscount Palmerston|
|Preceded by||Lord Lovaine|
|Succeeded by||Hon. William Cowper|
|Born||3 June 1805
Hawick, Roxburghshire, Scotland
|Died||11 August 1860
James Wilson (3 June 1805 – 11 August 1860) was a Scottish businessman, economist and Liberal politician. He founded The Economist and the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China (which became Standard Chartered).
Wilson was born in Hawick in the Borders. His wealthy father William Wilson owned a textile mill, and his ancestors were local sheep farmers. He was the fourth of 15 children, of whom 10 reached adulthood. His mother died when James was young.
A successful disciplined autodidact scholar from a Quaker family, he was destined to be a schoolmaster but hated it so much that he "would rather to be the most menial servant in [his] father's mill". After considering studying for election to the Faculty of Advocates, against his family religion, he decided to be schooled in economics. So at the age of 16, he became an apprentice in a hat factory. Later, his father then bought the business for him and his elder brother, William. They left Scotland and moved to London, England when James was 19, with a gift of £2,000 each (£130,000 in 2005 pounds).
Business career in London
The brothers established a manufacturing factory – Wilson, Irwin & Wilson – that they dissolved it in 1831. Wilson continued in the same line of business with much success (his net worth was £25,000 in 1837, or £1,630,000 in 2005 pounds). During the economic crisis of 1837, he lost most of his wealth when the price of indigo fell. By 1839 he sold most of his property and avoided bankruptcy. However, in 1853 he founded The Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, which later merged with the Standard Bank to form Standard Chartered Bank in 1969.
Wilson was generally opposed to privileging the Church of England, the secret ballot when it was proposed in 1853, and the Corn Laws. He wrote a pamphlet titled Influences of the Corn Laws, as affection all classes of the comminity, and particularly the landed interests. It slowly received positive feedback and Wilson's fame had grown. He then went on writing on currency, and especially The Revenue; or, What should the Chancellor do?. He started to write for newspapers, including the Manchester Guardian. In 1843 he established The Economist as a newspaper to campaign for free trade, and acted as Chief editor and sole proprietor for sixteen years. The Economist is still published today, now with a weekly circulation of over 1.6 million globally.
Wilson entered the House of Commons as Liberal Member of Parliament for Westbury, Wiltshire, in 1847. Because of his economic experience prime minister Lord John Russell appointed him Secretary of the Board of Control (which ran the affairs of India) in 1848, a post he held until the government fell in 1852. He then served as Financial Secretary to the Treasury between 1853 and 1858, firstly in Lord Aberdeen's coalition government and secondly in Lord Palmerston's first administration. In 1857 he was returned to Parliament for Devonport. He again briefly held office under Palmerston as Paymaster-General and Vice-President of the Board of Trade between June and August 1859 and was sworn of the Privy Council the same year.
In August 1859 Wilson resigned these offices and his seat in parliament to sit as the financial member of the Council of India. He was sent to India to establish the tax structure, a new paper currency and remodel the finance system of India after the revolt of 1857. However, he was in office only a year before he died. In 1860 he refused to leave the stifling summer heat of Calcutta, contracted dysentery and died in August of that year, aged 55.
Strangely even though he contributed greatly to the financial set-up of the British empire in India, he lay buried unknown at a cemetery at Mullick Bazar in Kolkata. His grave was discovered in 2007 by CP Bhatia, an assistant commissioner of Income Tax, while he was researching a book on India's tax history. Due to the efforts of CP Bhatia the tombstone was restored by the Christian Burial Board, thus restoring some dignity to a man that was in a way one of the forefathers of the Indian Tax structure.
- Influences of the corn laws, as affecting all classes of the community, and particularly the landed interests
- Fluctuations of currency, commerce, and manufactures : referable to the corn laws
- Bagehot, Walter. "Memoir of Right Hon. James Wilson". In Forrest Morgan. The collected works of Walter Bagehot 4. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-13154-4.
- The Economist circulation statistics
- leighrayment.com House of Commons: Waterloo to West Looe
- leighrayment.com House of Commons: Devizes to Dorset West
- The London Gazette: . 18 June 1859.
- business-standard.com 'In British times, the opium trade protected people from taxes'
- telegraphindia.com "Taxman rediscovers father of taxation"
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (September 2009)|
- "A Scotchman inside every man. (James Wilson, founder of The Economist)". The Economist. 11 September 1993.
- James Wilson by Ruth Dudley Edwards in Oxford DNB
- The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843–1993, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Massachusetts ISBN 0-87584-608-4
- Who's Who of British MPs by Michael Stenton (Harvester, Sussex, 1976) ISBN 0-85527-219-8
- Chambers, Robert; Thomson, Thomas (1870). A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen 3. Blackie and Son. pp. 542–6.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by James Wilson
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Sir Ralph Lopes, Bt
|Member of Parliament for Westbury
1847 – 1857
Sir Massey Lopes, Bt
Sir George Berkeley
Thomas Erskine Perry
|Member of Parliament for Devonport
1857 – 1859
With: Thomas Erskine Perry 1857–1859
Sir Michael Seymour 1859
Sir Michael Seymour
Sir Arthur William Buller
George Cornewall Lewis
|Joint Secretary of the Board of Control
With: Thomas Wyse 1848–1849
Hon. John Elliot 1849–1852
George Alexander Hamilton
|Financial Secretary to the Treasury
George Alexander Hamilton
Hon. William Cowper
|Vice-President of the Board of Trade