General Thomas Perronet Thompson Letters

Scope and Content

Letters from General Thomas Perronet Thompson, addressed predominantly to H.B. Peacock (1801-1876) of Manchester and also to the latter's daughter, on social and political affairs. They cover the years 1844 to 1855, with a gap for 1852, followed by one letter for 1869. Of these years the most fully represented are 1844 (48 items), 1845 (40), 1847 (25) and 1854 (34).

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Perronet Thompson (1783-1869), army officer and politician, was born in Hull on 15 March 1783. He was educated at Hull Grammar School. In 1798 he went up to Queens' College, Cambridge, gaining his BA degree in 1802, and being elected to a fellowship of his college in 1804. In 1803 he joined the Royal Navy as midshipman on HMS Isis, transferring to the Army three years later. He was commissioned as second lieutenant in 1806, lieutenant in 1808, captain in 1814, major in 1825, and lieutenant-colonel (unattached) in 1829, at which time he retired from military service. His subsequent promotions were made by brevet: to colonel (1846), major-general (1854), lieutenant-general (1860), and general (1868).

In 1808 Thompson became the first crown-appointed governor of Sierra Leone and in 1815 he went to Bombay as interpreter and political adviser. He returned to England in 1822 and engaged in political and literary activities. In 1826 he published his True theory of rent, followed by the Catechism on the corn laws (1827). He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1828. As well as his political and economic writing in subsequent years, he published works on enharmonic principles, just intonation, geometry, and the theory of parallels. Between 1829 and 1836 he became part-owner and co-editor of the Westminster review, to which he contributed many articles on parliamentary reform, Catholic emancipation, and free trade.

Thompson stood unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate for Preston in January 1835, but he narrowly won in Hull the following June. He did not contest Hull at the 1837 general election, but stood instead at Maidstone, where he came bottom of the poll. He suffered a string of electoral defeats before his victory in Bradford at the 1847 general election. He lost this seat in 1852, but served again as MP for Bradford from 1857 to 1859.

Much of his work was published in two collections, Exercises, political and others (6 vols, 1842) and Audi alteram partem (3 vols, 1858-61). Among his later writings were the Catechism on the currency(1848), and Fallacies against the ballot (1855), later reissued as A catechism (1859). He also involved himself in the agitation of the National Parliamentary Reform Association (1848-52). Thompson died at Blackheath, London, on 6 September 1869.

Source: Michael J. Turner, 'Thompson, Thomas Perronet (1783-1869)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from J.S. Golland of Harrow, Middlesex, in March 1955.


Description compiled by Jo Klett, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Thomas Perronet Thompson.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1952-1970 (English MS 1180).

Related Material

For correspondence and papers of Thomas Perronet Thompson see Hull University Archives (ref.: GB 050 DHT). Leeds University Library, Special Collections, holds Thompson family correspondence and papers (ref.: GB 206 MSS 277, 283 passim). Other correspondence can be found at the British Library, Manuscript Collections (ref.: GB 0058 Add MSS 43663, 35145-35151, 37949); Manchester Archives and Local Studies; and Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections (ref.: GB 237 Dc 4 101-03).


See Leonard George Johnson, General T. Perronet Thompson, 1783-1869: his military, literary and political campaigns (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1957) . Note that the present letters were not used in this publication.

See also Michael J. Turner, '"Setting the captive free": Thomas Perronet Thompson, British radicalism and the West Indies, 1820s-1860s', Slavery and abolition, vol. 26, no. 1 (April 2005), pp. 115-32 .