James Morrison (businessman)

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James Morrison (1789–1857) was a British millionaire businessman and Member of Parliament.

Upbringing and family[edit]

Morrison was the son of an innkeeper from Middle Wallop in Hampshire. He married Mary Anne, daughter of Joseph Todd, a London draper business and quickly made it one of the most profitable in the world.[1]

His children included Alfred Morrison, a notable art collector (see The Morrison Triptych), who was High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1857; Charles of Basildon Park and Islay; Alfred of Fonthill (Wiltshire), the father of Major James Archibald Morrison of Fonthill and Basildon; Frank of Hole Park (Kent) and Strathraich (Ross); and Walter of Malham Tarn, (Yorkshire).

The politician James Morrison, son of Alfred, was a grandson.

Career[edit]

Morrison began his career in a very humble capacity in a London warehouse. His industry, sagacity and integrity eventually secured him a partnership in the general drapery business in Fore Street of Joseph Todd, whose daughter he married. The firm latterly became known as Morrison, Dillon & Co and was afterwards converted into the Fore Street Limited Liability Company.[2]

Morrison was one of the first English traders to depend for his success on the lowest remunerative scale of profit. He thus endeavoured to secure a very rapid circulation of capital, his motto being "small profits and quick returns". He made an immense fortune, a great part of which he expended in buying land in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Kent, Wiltshire, Yorkshire and Islay in Argyllshire (which island he purchased for nearly £½m in 1854). In his Life and Correspondence, Robert Southey records how he saw Morrison at Keswick in September 1823. He was then worth some £150,000 and was on his way to New Lanark on the Clyde and intended investing £5,000 in Robert Owen's philanthropic community "if he should find his expectations confirmed by what he sees there".[2]

From his earliest settlement in London, Morrison was associated with the Liberal party in the city. In 1830, he entered Parliament as member for St. Ives (Cambridgeshire), which he helped to partially disfranchise by voting for the Reform Bill. He did not return to his offended constituents but, in 1831, he secured a seat at Ipswich, for which he was again elected in December 1832. He was, however, defeated there on the 'Peel Dissolution' in January 1835. On an election petition, Fitzroy Kelly and Robert Adam Dundas, the members, were unseated and Morrison, with Rigby Wason, headed the poll in June 1835. At the succeeding dissolution, in July 1837, Morrison remained out of parliament and, in the following December, on the occasion of a by-election for a vacancy at Ipswich, he was defeated in a contest with Joseph Bailey. In March 1840, he re-entered the House of Commons as member for the Inverness Burghs and was again returned unopposed in the general election of 1841 but, on the dissolution of 1847, his health being much impaired, he finally retired.[2]

In the 1830s, Morrison established the American trading company, Morrison, Cryder & Co., and invested heavily in the railway industry both in the United States and in France. On 17 May 1836, he made an able speech on moving a resolution urging the periodical revision of tolls and charges levied on railroads and other public works. In 1845, he moved similar resolutions and, again in March 1846, when he finally succeeded in obtaining a select committee for the better promoting and securing of the interests of the public in railway acts. His draft report, not altogether adopted, was drawn with great skill and many of its principles were adopted in subsequent legislation.[2]

Though an entirely self-educated man, Morrison possessed considerable literary tastes, which were exercised in the formation of a large library. He was likewise a lover of art and made a large collection of pictures of the old masters, Italian and Dutch, together with many fine examples of the English school. It was a ‘collection of a very high class.’[2] housed in both his London house in Harley Street as well as at Basildon Park in Berkshire which, by 1842, had completely replaced the Pavilion at Fonthill (Wiltshire) as his favoured country estate. It included works by Constable, Da Vinci, Hogarth, Holbein, Poussin, Rembrandt, Reynolds, Rubens, Titian, Turner, Cuyp, Jan Steen, Murillo and VanDyck.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Dakers, Caroline (2005) James Morrison (1789–1857), 'Napoleon of Shopkeepers', Millionaire Haberdasher, Modern Entrepreneur. In: Fashion and Modernity. Berg, Oxford, pp. 17–32. ISBN 1-84520-027-6
  • Dakers, Caroline (2012) A Genius for Money: Business, Art and the Morrisons. Wiley. ISBN 9780300112207

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Arbuthnot
James Halse
Member of Parliament for St Ives
18301831
With: William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley
Succeeded by
Edward Bulwer-Lytton
James Halse
Preceded by
Charles Mackinnon
Robert Dundas
Member of Parliament for Ipswich
18311835
With: Rigby Wason
Succeeded by
Fitzroy Kelly
Robert Dundas
Preceded by
Roderick Macleod
Member of Parliament for Inverness Burghs
18401847
Succeeded by
Alexander Matheson