BRODRICK, Thomas (1654-1730), of Wandsworth, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 4 Aug. 1654, 1st s. of St. John Brodrick of Midleton, co. Cork by Alice, da. of Laurence Clayton of Mallow, co. Cork, and bro. of Alan Brodrick. educ. Trinity Hall, Camb. 1670, M. Temple 1670. m. Anne, da. of Alexander Pigott of Innishannon, co. Cork, 1s. suc. fa. 1712.
M.P. [I] 1692-1713, 1715-27.
Jt. comptroller of army accounts 1708-11; P.C. [I] 1714.
The founder of the Brodrick family, St. John Brodrick, a Cromwellian officer, obtained a large grant of forfeited Irish lands in 1653. His eldest son, Thomas, entered the House of Commons in his sixtieth year for Stockbridge, after sitting for over twenty years in the Irish parliament. A staunch Whig, who had been displaced by the late Tory government, he was not one of those who were reinstated on George I’s accession.1 He soon established himself as an influential independent member, voting against the Government on the peerage bill in December 1719, but refusing to join the regular opposition under Walpole.2 A month later he intervened in the debate on the South Sea Company’s offer to pay £3,500,000 for the privilege of taking over the national debt, with a view to converting it into their own stock. In a letter to his brother he describes how, after the ministerial spokesman had introduced the scheme,
a profound silence ensued for a full quarter of an hour; everybody expecting who would first rise; when the Secretary getting up to make his motion in form, I rose, and was pointed to. I readily agreed with the two gentlemen who had spoke, that till the national debt was discharged, or at least in a fair way of being so we were not to expect making that figure we formerly had. I said ... that the occasion of my now speaking was, that the first gentleman who spoke, seemed to me to recommend the scheme not only in opposition, but even exclusively of all others; and that the next had chimed in with him; that I hoped, in order to make the best bargain we could, every other company, nay any other society of men might be at as full liberty to make proposals as the South Sea Company, since every gentleman must agree this to be the likeliest way to make a good bargain for the public. Our great men looked as if thunderstruck, and one of them in particular, turned pale as my cravat. Upon this ensued a debate of above two hours.
Brodrick’s views met with such general support that the Government were forced to allow a tender from the Bank of England who overbid the Company by £2,000,000, whereupon the Company raised their offer to over £7,000,000, which was accepted.
Whoever had heard how highly the first scheme was applauded [Brodrick wrote], how earnestly recommended for our acceptance, and how very near it was to be so, would stand amazed that ever the public (in any instance) should be so fortunate as to more than double the sum intended to them; but thus it has for once happened. ’Tis not vanity in me to say that this is due to my motion.
When the scheme collapsed Brodrick headed the ballot for the secret committee set up by the Commons to investigate the affair, taking the lead as chairman in hounding down not only the directors, but those whom he now regarded as their ministerial accomplices. His nephew, St. John Brodrick, described him as
the spring that gives motion to the whole body; and the only man that either can or will set matters in a true light, and expose and baffle the schemes of the screen [i.e. Walpole];3
and a fortnight later: ‘My uncle ... is the most popular, best regarded man in the House’.4
In 1722 Brodrick transferred to Guildford, where he was brought in on the Onslow interest. At the opening of the new Parliament he and his brother were among the leading ministerial supporters in the Commons who attended private meetings at Walpole’s house, at one of which they discussed and prepared a bill for suspending the Habeas Corpus Act in consequence of the Atterbury plot. Thomas was against the length of time proposed for the suspension, and his brother against the whole measure, which however was agreed to on Walpole’s urging the great necessity of it.5 Later in the session he moved unsuccessfully for steps to be taken to enforce the payment of the malt tax in Scotland.6 Next session his nephew reports him as returning to the charge.
Ever since the end of the war they [Scotland] have been charged with the same duty upon malt, 6d. per bushel, with England; but ... have never paid one farthing to that tax, which you know is a very grievous one here, and consequently must imagine the English members not very well pleased to see them escape ... where they pay £750,000 per annum. My uncle, among others, has always roared at this, and moved yesterday to adjourn the committee of ways and means, where the malt tax was proposed, till Monday, in order to think of some method to oblige Scotland to pay something to it. This was opposed by Mr. Walpole but after some debate he was obliged to give it up.
He also associated himself with his brother’s stand against Wood’s coinage scheme in Ireland, intervening on his behalf with the King and the ministry.7
In 1725 Brodrick opposed the restoration of Bolingbroke’s estates, saying that ‘this was laying a foundation for a revolution and that we are as we once were under the influence of French ladies’,8 alluding to the part played by Bolingbroke’s French wife in this transaction. Next year he voted with the Government on an opposition motion for a committee to examine the public accounts observing: ‘I never was for a ministry because they are so, nor will I be against them as such, which to deal plainly was in my opinion the fundamental matter’.9 In 1727 he spoke for the Government on a motion for papers relating to the restitution of Gibraltar, 6 Feb., against them on a vote of credit, 12 Apr., and in support of the new King’s civil list.10 He did not stand at the general election, and died 3 Oct. 1730.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. Coxe, Walpole, ii. 413-14.
- 2. Thos. Brodrick to Midleton, 10 Dec. 1719, Midleton mss.
- 3. Coxe, Walpole, ii. 182, 185, 216.
- 4. 6 June 1721, Midleton mss.
- 5. Knatchbull Diary, App. 115.
- 6. Ibid. 24 Jan. 1723.
- 7. Coxe, 376, 382.
- 8. Knatchbull Diary, 20 Apr. 1725.
- 9. Coxe, ii. 495-6, in which 'ministry' is misprinted 'minority'.
- 10. Knatchbull Diary, 3 July 1727.