THORNTON, Samuel (1754-1838), of Clapham and Albury Park, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1807 - 1812
22 Nov. 1813 - 1818

Family and Education

b. 6 Nov. 1754, 1st s. of John Thornton of Clapham by Lucy, da. and h. of Samuel Watson of Hull; bro. of Henry and Robert Thornton.  m. 12 Dec. 1780, Elizabeth, da. of Robert Milnes of Wakefield, 4s. 5da.  suc. fa. 1790.

Offices Held

Director, Bank of England 1780-1836, gov. 1799-1801; gov. of Russia Co. 1810- d.


John Thornton was the biggest English merchant trading to Russia, held the contract for Government remittances to Russia during the seven years’ war, and was a large contributor to Government loans. James West described him in 1759 as ‘very rich, in great credit and esteem, and of as much weight in the City as any one man I know’.1 He was one of the leaders of the Evangelical movement, and became connected in marriage with Wilberforce. His three sons all entered business and became Members of Parliament. They formed the nucleus of the famous ‘Clapham sect’ of Evangelicals.

Samuel Thornton joined his father’s business and while still a young man established his position in the City. In 1784 he successfully contested Hull, where he had family connexions, on a joint interest with his cousin William Wilberforce.

Thornton voted for parliamentary reform, 13 Apr. 1785, and consistently supported Pitt whose commercial measures he vigorously defended. More than a dozen speeches by him are reported during this Parliament, all on commercial or economic matters. He seems to have been spokesman for the Greenland merchants: during the debate on the Greenland fishery, 12 Apr. 1786, he told the House that the committee of Greenland shipowners in London had authorized him to state their views in the debate; and as their spokesman he was consulted by Jenkinson about Russian and North European trade, April 1786.2

He died 3 July 1838.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. Add. 32890, ff. 231-2.
  • 2. Debrett, xx. 104; Add. 38219, f. 105.