Thomas Perronet Thompson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Thomas Perronet Thompson, portrait by George Hayter

Thomas Perronet Thompson (1783–1869) was a British Parliamentarian, a governor of Sierra Leone and a radical reformer. He became prominent in 1830s and 1840s as a leading activist in the Anti-Corn Law League. He specialized in the grass-roots mobilisation of opinion through pamphlets, newspaper articles, correspondence, speeches, and endless local planning meetings.[1]


Thompson was born in Kingston upon Hull in 1783. He was son of Thomas Thompson, a banker of Hull and his wife, Philothea Perronet Briggs. The name Perronet was from his mother's grandfather, Vincent Perronet, vicar of Shoreham and a friend of John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley. He was educated at Hull Grammar School. He graduated from Queens' College, Cambridge in 1802[2] with the rank of seventh Wrangler.[3] From 1803, Thompson served as a midshipman in the Royal Navy, switching to the British Army (as a lieutenant) in 1806. Thompson became Governor of Sierra Leone between August 1808 and June 1810, due in part to his acquaintance with William Wilberforce. He was recalled from the job after complaining about the system by which "freed" slaves were compulsorily "apprenticed" for fourteen years in Sierra Leone. He wrote that Wilberforce and the Sierra Leone Company had "by means of their agents become slave traders themselves". He threatened to expose this situation, so he was sacked, with Wilberforce himself agreeing to the dismissal.[4]

In 1812, Thompson returned to his military duties, and, after serving in the south of France, was in 1815 attached as Arabic interpreter to an expedition against the Wahabees of the Persian Gulf, with whom he negotiated a treaty (dated January 1820) in which the slave trade was for the first time declared piracy. Whilst in the Army, Thompson was promoted to Major in 1825, Lieutenant Colonel in 1829 and in later years was made a Major General. While serving in the Army in India, his second son, Charles, was born at Bombay.

As a radical reformer, Thompson wrote the True Theory of Rent and A Catechism on the Corn Laws. He also joint-owned the Westminster Review for a time. He wrote several articles in the journal supporting universal suffrage. Thompson represented Kingston upon Hull in the House of Commons from 1835 to 1837 and was elected to represent Bradford in 1847.[5]

Thompson was also involved in music, writing books on Harmony and Just Intonation e.g. for the guitar (Instructions to my daughter for playing on the enharmonic guitar[6]), and building an organ with over 40 notes to the octave, to "realise the visions of Guido and Mersenne.

Monuments to his second son General Charles William Thompson, his youngest son Lieutenant Colonel John Wycliffe Thompson, who served in the Crimean War, and his youngest daughter Anne Elise are in the chancel of St Mary's Church, Cottingham, near Hull.


  1. ^ Michael J. Turner, "The ‘Bonaparte of free trade’ and the Anti-Corn Law League." Historical Journal 41.4 (1998): 1011-1034.
  2. ^ "Thompson, Thomas Perronet (THM798TP)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ Saunders, John (1840). Saunders' Portraits and Memoirs of Eminent Living Political Reformers. London: J. Dowding. 
  4. ^ William Wilberforce 'condoned slavery', Colonial Office papers reveal. Caroline Davies., Monday 2 August 2010 18.49 BST. Accessed 3 August 2010.
  5. ^ Chisholm 1911.
  6. ^ Instructions to my daughter for playing on the enharmonic guitar: an attempt to effect the execution of correct harmony, on principles analogous to those of the ancient enharmonic by Thomas Perronet Thompson (1783-1869)
    Review (The Harmonicon, 1830)   Excerpt on temperament (The Harmonicon, 1830)   Extended Review (The Westminster Review, Volume XVI, 1832)   Postscript to the prev. Extended Review


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Thomas Ludlam
Governor of Sierra Leone
21 July 1808 - 12 February 1810
Succeeded by
Edward H. Columbine
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
David Carruthers and
William Hutt
Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull
With: William Hutt
Succeeded by
Sir Walter Charles James and
William Wilberforce
Preceded by
John Hardy and
William Busfield
Member of Parliament for Bradford
With: William Busfield, to 1851
Robert Milligan, from 1851
Succeeded by
Henry Wickham Wickham and
Robert Milligan