William Thompson (Ipswich MP)

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Sir William Thompson or Thomson (1678 – 27 October 1739) was an English judge and politician, Member of Parliament for Ipswich.


He was second son of Sir William Thompson (d. 1695), serjeant-at-law, and was admitted in 1688 a student at the Middle Temple, where he was called to the bar in 1698. He was returned to parliament, 4 May 1708, for Orford, Suffolk, but, having taken an active part in the impeachment of Henry Sacheverell and the prosecution of his riotous supporters, Daniel Dammaree, Francis Willis, and George Purchase (March–April 1709-10), lost his seat at the general election of the ensuing autumn. Returned for Ipswich, 3 September 1713, he was unseated on petition, 1 April 1714; but regained the seat on 28 January 1715, and retained it until his elevation to the exchequer bench.

On 3 March 1714-15 Thompson was elected recorder of London, and soon after was knighted. He took part in the impeachment of the Jacobite George Seton, 5th Earl of Wintoun, 15–19 March 1716, Appointed for the solicitor-generalship, 24 January 1717, he was dismissed from that office, 17 March 1720, for bringing an unfounded charge of corrupt practices against attorney-general Nicholas Lechmere. Retaining the recordership, he was accorded in 1724 precedence in all courts after the solicitor-general. On 23 May 1726 he was appointed cursitor baron, and on 27 November 1729 he succeeded Sir Bernard Hale as puisne baron of the exchequer, having first been called to the degree of serjeant-at-law (17 November) This office with the recordership he retained until his death at Bath, 27 October 1739.

In 1717 William Thomson introduced an act into the House of Commons that eventually became law in 1718 (4 Geo I, c.11). Known as the Transportation Act 1717 (a.k.a. Piracy Act), the Transportation Act formalized the process for transporting British criminals (except Scottish) to the American colonies. Seen as a way to reduce crime in Britain felons who committed clergyable offenses could be transported for 7 years and receivers of stolen goods could be transported for 14 years. This act of Thomson's resulted in tens of thousands of convicts being transported to the American colonies (including Canada and the West Indies) and later to Australia between 1718 and the end of transport in 1867.


Thompson married twice: (1) by licence dated 16 July 1701, Mrs. Joyce Brent, widow; (2) in 1711, Julia, daughter of Sir Christopher Conyers, bart., of Horden, Durham, widow of Sir William Blacket, bart., of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It does not appear that he had issue by either wife.



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Thompson, William (1678-1739)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Richard Richardson
Orlando Bridgeman
Member of Parliament for Ipswich
With: William Churchill to 1717
Francis Negus from 1717
Succeeded by
Philip Broke
Francis Negus