Thomas Hardy (political reformer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Thomas Hardy
National Liberal Club Wikimedia UK portrait of Thomas Hardy.jpg
Born (1752-03-03)3 March 1752
Larbert, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Died 11 October 1832(1832-10-11) (aged 80)
Resting place Bunhill Fields, London
Nationality British
Occupation Shoemaker
Known for Founding the London Corresponding Society.

Thomas Hardy (3 March 1752 – 11 October 1832) was an early Radical, and the founder and first Secretary of the London Corresponding Society.

Early life[edit]

Hardy was born on 3 March 1752 in Larbert, Stirlingshire, Scotland, the son of a merchant seaman.[1] His father died in 1760 at sea while Thomas was still a boy. He was sent to school by his maternal grandfather[1] and later apprenticed to a shoemaker in Stirlingshire. He later worked in the Carron Iron Works. As a young man, he came to London just before the American Revolutionary War. In 1781 he married the youngest daughter of a carpenter and builder named Priest from Chesham, Buckinghamshire and had six children, all of whom died in infancy. His wife, pregnant with her sixth child died in childbirth on 27 August 1794, her child being stillborn, perhaps as the result of injuries sustained when a loyalist mob attacked the Hardy home some weeks earlier.[2] In 1791 Hardy opened his own boot and shoe shop at 9 Piccadilly, London.[1]

Involvement with the London Corresponding Society[edit]

Main article: 1794 Treason Trials

Around 1792, Thomas Hardy founded the London Corresponding Society, starting out with just nine friends. Two years later it had grown so powerful that he was arrested by the Crown on charges of high treason. During his imprisonment, Hardy's wife gave birth to a stillborn, and eventually died in August 1794, leaving him with an unfinished letter declaring her love for him.[3] The charges were prosecuted with Sir John Scott leading for the Crown, and William Garrow[1] among the prosecuting counsel; while Hardy was defended by Thomas Erskine. He was acquitted after nine days of testimony and debate.[1]

Hardy's monument in Bunhill Fields burial ground

Death and legacy[edit]

In later life Hardy ceased involvement in politics, and with the assistance of friends set up a small shoe shop in Tavistock Street, Covent Garden.[1] In September 1797 he moved to a smaller establishment in Fleet Street.[1] He died on 11 October 1832 at his home in Queen's Row, Pimlico, London.[1] He was buried at Bunhill Fields burial ground, where a granite obelisk, designed by John Woody Papworth, was later erected to his memory.[4]

See also[edit]

  • Garrow's Law, BBC dramatisation based on Hardy's trial (episode 4, series 1)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Emsley, Clive. "Hardy, Thomas (1752–1832)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  2. ^ Uglow, Jenny. In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon's Wars, 1793-1815. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014.
  3. ^ Brown, P.A. (1965). The French Revolution in English History. Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. p. 123. 
  4. ^ Historic England. "Monument to Thomas Hardy, East Enclosure (1396521)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 June 2014.