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William Jacob (c. 1761 – 17 December 1851) was an English merchant, scientist, parliamentarian, public official and advocate for expanded British trade. In his later life he was a significant and effective advocate for the repeal of the Corn Laws.
The early life of William Jacob is not known, though he seems to have received a good education, and a strong interest in statistics. He may have been from an emigre Jewish family.
In the 1790s through to 1810 the firm of John and William Jacob traded from London variously as linen merchants and 'warehousemen'. In 1806 William Jacob was elected to the House of Commons as a Tory Member of Parliament (MP) for Westbury, with a subsequent election to Rye for the period 1808-11.
During 1806-7 Britain temporarily invaded the region of Rio de Plata, disrupting the Spanish control of its American colonies. At this time William Jacob was a key influencer in advocating Britain's attempt at invasion and overthrow of the weak Spanish control over its American empire. In encouraging this undertaking William Jacob introduced the Parliamentary Act that reduced the monopoly of the South Sea Company.
In anticipation of changes in South America the firm of J&W Jacob, of Newgate Street, London embarked upon an ambitious trade. In 1807 they sought investors for an expedition to the South Seas to trade contraband fabrics with the closed colonies of Spain's American empire. The Jacobs obtained sufficient investment for three ships to proceed to the Pacific coast, the ship's being the Hero, Pandour, and Memphis.
While each of the ships were commissioned with letter of marque their primary role was to trade British fabrics for silver, gold or copper ingots.
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- "William Jacob, Esq. F.R.S" (Google Books). The Gentleman's Magazine (London: J. B. Nichols and Son): 523. January–June 1852. Retrieved 2008-09-19.
- Stooks Smith, Henry. (1973) [1844-1850]. Craig, F. W. S., ed. The Parliaments of England (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 378. ISBN 0-900178-13-2.
- Stooks Smith, page 348
- Gordon Goodwin, ‘Jacob, William (1761/2–1851)’, rev. M. J. Mercer, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 , accessed 11 Jan 2009
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by William Jacob
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Westbury
1806 – 1807
With: John Woolmore
Sir William Elford
Stephen Rumbold Lushington
|Member of Parliament for Rye
1808 – 1812
With: Stephen Rumbold Lushington
Thomas Phillipps Lamb
Sir Henry Sullivan