Cumming, Thomas (DNB00)

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CUMMING, THOMAS (d. 1774), quaker, commonly known as the ‘fighting quaker,’ was a private merchant engaged in the African trade. During a business voyage he contracted an acquaintance with the king of Legibelli (South Barbary), whom he found well disposed to English enterprise, and who, being exasperated with the French, had actually commenced a war against them. He requested the English to protect his trade, and on condition of receiving the sole privilege of trading with the country, Cumming agreed to exert his influence with the English government. After ascertaining the strength of the French positions on the coast, he returned to England, and having formed a plan for an expedition, presented it to the board of trade, by whom it was approved after a critical examination. Many obstacles were placed in his way by the government, but at length the ministry granted a military and naval force, though a much inferior one to that he considered necessary. This force was professedly put under the command of military officers, but Cumming really had the entire direction, and his local knowledge enabled him to guide it in such a manner that it proved entirely successful. Cumming had hoped, as he explained to the Society of Friends, that bloodshed might be avoided, and avowed that otherwise he would not have urged it. This hope, however, was fruitless, and he then took the entire blame on himself, but there is no reason to suppose he was disowned by the Friends. He died 29 May 1774.

[Hume's Hist. x. 96; State Records; Gent. Mag. 1774, 287.]

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