Hume Letters

Scope and Content


Four letters from Hume to Sir John Bowring, concerning government reforms, 13 Jul 1823 to 1834

One letter from Hume to Jeremy Bentham, concerning the practice of arrest and imprisonment for civil debts and other matters, 12 Oct 1826 (?).

Administrative / Biographical History

After making his fortune in India, Hume returned to England and, in 1812, purchased a seat in the House of Commons, where he voted as a Tory. Parliament dissolved, and six years elapsed before he returned to the House; during that time he adopted the doctrines of James Mill and the philosophical radicals. When Hume returned to Parliament, he became the self-appointed guardian of the public purse by challenging and bringing to a direct vote every single item of public expenditure. He was responsible for adding the word retrenchment to the radical peace and reform program. A believer in free trade, Hume was largely responsible for the repeal of the laws prohibiting the export of machinery and of the act preventing the emigration of workmen; he also fought the Combination Acts, which made trade unionism illegal. An energetic and tireless reformer, he also protested against flogging in the army, the impressment of sailors, and imprisonment for debt; he advocated Catholic emancipation and the admission of dissenters to the universities; and he advocated the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts and parliamentary reform.

Access Information


The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

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Related Material

University College London Special Collections also holds: MS ADD 176 (letters to Joseph Strutt), and the Hume Tracts.